Suntory Starts Brewing Agile Factories With Hitachi

Image credit: iStockphoto/kuppa_rock

COVID-19 showed how vulnerable businesses are to human work disruption. One company looking to digitalize its human-driven processes and reimagine a new model with digitalization is Suntory.

The brewer is simplifying its age-old traditions by working closely with Hitachi to create an IoT platform that adds precision to traceability. At the same time, it is using the digital transformation of factory management at the new operational Suntory Kita-Alps Shinano-no-Mori Water Plant to drive collaborative creation.

Using IoT data in factories is not new. But often, the data was collected and utilized by each processing and production line and individually optimized.

The developed IoT platform at the new factory using Hitachi's Lumada solutions allows Suntory to quickly collect and integrate a variety of data from overall factory production facilities and equipment and the IT systems for procurement, production, quality management, and shipment.

The aim for the next-generation factory model also goes beyond optimization. Both Suntory and Hitachi want the factory to evolve by connecting this data and using it in the installed software.

The IoT platform, which combines several of Hitachi's Lumada solutions, collects and integrates data from each IT system and from the factory's overall production facilities and equipment.

The Hitachi IoT-Platform simplifies the extraction and connection of the required data for analysis and optimization of the production site. Suntory believes the visualization and digitalization for the entire factory via the IoT platform will lead to further precision in factory management, including speeding up the PDCA cycle.

One area that will benefit immediately is product safety and security. Tracing the manufacturing and inspection history for each product required time, experience, and knowledge. It needed a supervisor to collect the correct data from work records and inspect the extent of influence on products.

With this Hitachi collaboration, the precision traceability system can connect and manage manufacturing and inspection history and quality information for each product across all product lines. It allows Suntory to respond rapidly by referencing information and offer explanations when receiving inquiries from consumers related to products.

Another area of improvement is reporting, which requires humans to collect and process data needed to respond to inquiries. The new dashboard allows for visualization and analysis of necessary information when required for different purposes based on data from production facilities and equipment and IT systems within the factory.

As a result, Suntory can promote remote work and improve work efficiency through digitalizing and automating the previously human-intensive routine labor of data collection and processing.

The end result is a factory model that gives Suntory better control over its production. Meanwhile, it can allow the company to shift its human workforce to focus on creative work.  

Suntory is not done yet. It is planning to use the next-generation factory model created with this project with its other factories.

Meanwhile, Hitachi will use the knowledge gained through this collaboration to improve further traceability precision with SCM and expand its Lumada solution globally.

Image credit: iStockphoto/kuppa_rock