Digital technologies enhancing continuous improvement and driving operational visibility at Swire
The continuous improvement (CI) landscape, like most other aspects of modern manufacturing, has been greatly influenced by digital transformation. Swire Coca-Cola manufactures, markets and distributes refreshing soft drinks to consumers in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China and the USA. The company is already a global benchmark when it comes to CI, and has embraced digital transformation with the same trademark vigour that has defined its WCO journey up to now. In this article, Huang Zhimin, Swire’s Continuous Improvement Manager, Central Service Supply Chain, looks at some digital technologies that supplement CI and structured problem-solving throughout Swire’s end-to-end value chain.
“Our WCO journey over the past 10 years has been nothing short of remarkable: We’ve seen savings of just over RMB* 100 million (*Chinese Yuan), and we’ve completed close to 1 000 manufacturing and supply chain profit improvement projects (PIPs). Our Kanban boards have evolved from filling up walls with production statistics to upscale, electronic boards with practical action plans.”
IT and the supply chain
The exponential growth of information technology (IT) in supply chain management has made Swire aware of the critical role IT plays in optimising decisions for achieving organisational competitiveness, improving higher service levels, and lowering inventory and supply chain costs. The reality, however, was that the different role players in the Swire value chain adopted (or are planning to adopt) different digital technologies, some more advanced than others.
“So, while our value chain partners had lots of operational data at their fingertips, we had to do a fair bit of analysis to get the most out of the available data. Even then, manually analysing and evaluating the data to determine causal losses was often time-consuming and laborious. Deviation also resulted in unreliable data accuracy.
“To limit deviation and achieve adequate information sharing across and beyond the organisation, we realised the time was ripe for Swire’s visual management (VM) system to enable the digital integration of that data. The solution, it seems, would be to introduce software that could facilitate third party ERP integration that’s independent of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).”
Automated line monitoring
Keeping up with consumer trends is changing the demand on production lines and is driving the need for flexible, fast changeovers. To reach this next level of operational effectiveness, Swire started looking for manufacturing intelligence software suited to high-speed production lines.
Coca-Cola Great Britain had already implemented a line monitoring system called LineView. Similar to Swire, the UK operation wanted a solution across all their facilities to standardise the system and the approach through which site teams were reviewing performance and driving effective actions to improve plant productivity.
“We visited a few UK sites to see if the system could work for Swire’s operations. The software impressed us because the visual user interface presented actionable information in an easy-to-read format that enabled rapid decision-making. This feature allowed production teams to focus their efforts on taking effective action.”
A winning partnership
“After we analysed our significant losses and did a lot of brainstorming, we decided to trial the software at the Zhengzhou plant for six months. So far, accessibility has proven very useful. Each team member has access to the production data, whether on a touch screen, from home, or a mobile phone. The number of production meetings has also been adjusted to five and they take up less time now.”
The TRACC digital ecosystem has proved to be extremely valuable, and its interface with LineView has resulted in great improvements in our VM system. The Kanban board is much more interactive now, and teams can get a real-time overview of every shift, hour-by-hour. It also indicates how many unplanned and micro-stoppages the lines experience. This integrated data can then be exported to the TRACC Platform to generate a performance report and subsequent improvement action plan.
As a result of this digitisation trial, Swire has synchronised its supply chain network, has overcome operational challenges, and reinforced its leadership position in China’s competitive consumer beverage market. View Swire Coca-Cola’s Lineview application at their Zhengzhou plant in China.