IoT is connecting all devices in our home, from appliances to equipment, and now it’s increasingly moving its base towards its industrial use with IoT sensors improving production efficiency and quality. Glass manufacturing sector is one such artistic industry that has evolved a lot since its inception in the prehistoric times. From manual glass fusion to using modern technologies for producing glass containers, the industry has come a long way. Standing out of the ever-evolving glass manufacturing and packaging industry, PGP Glass is one prominent name that has used an army of IoT sensors and advanced data analytics in the cloud to improve their manufacturing operations and speed up their decision making.
With manufacturing facilities in India, Sri Lanka, and the US, and offering end-to-end glass packaging solutions in over 50 countries, PGP Glass is one of the global companies focused on designing, producing, and decorating premium glass bottle packaging for pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and food and beverage industry. And, such a vast operation demands a commitment from the company to constantly add value for its customers.
“Although we are a B2B company, we always wanted to provide our customers, many of whom are millennials, a B2C experience, which includes real-time visibility, anytime/anywhere service, a faster delivery, and quality of products. And to provide such an experience, our manufacturing operations required real-time visibility of operations to improve the efficiency,” said Vijay Shah, Vice Chairman at PGP Glass.
When further asked, he explained, how glass manufacturing could be a complicated process, which involves various phases such as batch preparation, melting raw material in the furnace, bottle forming, treatment, and packing. In also includes fixed costs and capacities that are very sensitive to variations in demand, and therefore, it was vital to optimise the operations to drive profitable growth.
The company produces 1,375 tons of glass units per day across 60 production lines, all of which run 24/7 producing tons of data. Historically, all this data was being manually collected for each lot, and then was captured in paper-based logbooks by the plant personnel, which on a longer run, proved challenging to analyse and did not provide timely insights to improve production. And to improve the production efficiency and minimise defects, it was required for the company to transform its manufacturing process with technology. In turn, it was also necessary to uptime the optimal performance of their essential equipment, such as furnaces, inspection machines and compressors; to reduce the energy costs.
To set new benchmarks in the glass manufacturing and packaging industry, PGP Glass turned towards digital transformation to stay ahead of its game. “The first step in our transformation journey was to set out on a data crusade where we capture real-time process data,” said Shah.
As an early adopter of technology, PGP Glass leveraged Azure IoT to get real-time visibility into its line manufacturing operations and to analyse production line losses at various stages. Using Azure IoT Hub, Microsoft helped PGP Glass in acquiring data from sensors on production lines to identify quality parameters at each stage and get insights on line efficiencies in real-time.
RTMI at Kosamba
“Microsoft’s Azure IoT platform enabled PGP Glass to connect and monitor their equipment to gain real-time visibility into operational data that was previously unavailable. The technology integration was designed for fast and easy set-up, to be built on the existing infrastructure,” said Sashikumar Sreedharan, General Manager and Managing Director at Microsoft India.
“To facilitate this transformation, a Microsoft partner, Precimetrix was brought in for their plant monitoring system that is hosted on Microsoft Azure. The sensors on high-speed conveyor lines were interfaced with data acquisition devices that record key metrics, as the bottles move along the production line. This data gets aggregated on an edge gateway, and then pushed to the plant monitoring system on the cloud,” further added. “A custom solution, which we call, Real-Time Manufacturing Insights (RTMI), was then developed on top of the platform to provide stage-wise losses, production reports, quality control workflows, and role-specific KPIs on PCs and smartphones of the plant personnel. At any time when there is an anomaly detected or the production efficiency drops, actionable alerts are being sent through SMS, email or push notifications.”
In short, the developed RTMI leverages digital technologies to enable real-time monitoring and advanced insights for end-to-end plant operations. It democratised real-time information available to all plant stakeholders of the company, allowing them to take faster decisions. RTMI was piloted in three production lines in the Kosamba plant near Surat, Gujarat. Existing and retrofitted sensors were connected to the cloud with Azure IoT Hub and analysed through RTMI. “Since the benefits were evident, RTMI was scaled to 46 production lines across PGP Glass plants in India, Sri Lanka, and the US, within only six months,” said Sreedharan.
The cloud-based and multi-channel deployment of the custom-developed smart manufacturing platform, RTMI allowed PGP Glass to have an anytime/anywhere access to real-time insights. Using the Azure IoT Hub, RTMI acquired data from sensors on production lines and then measured losses at each stage in real-time to improve the production line. With the integration of RTMI in the production equipment, it provides a holistic view of the process and how various parameters impact the others.
“Till date, we have analysed over 1 billion data points from 4,000 sensors and equipment. One of the biggest challenges we were facing was to extract valuable but siloed data from existing equipment and production lines. For this, we have invested in the integration of information technology with operational technology, along with retrofitted sensors, to capture the data every second. And to analyse this high volume and high-velocity data, we are building an industrial-scale data lake with real-time data pipelines,” said Shah.
Further added, “The smart workflows, customisable dashboards, and real-time notifications by RTMI provided timely actionable insights to our furnace, production and quality personnel. We have also implemented a cloud-based energy management system integrated with advanced meters to provide real-time view and advanced analytics on electricity, natural gas, and compressed air consumption.”
These smart manufacturing initiatives provided the plant personnel with real-time visibility into operations, thereby enabling the stakeholders to make quicker decisions. With the integration of a paperless system, PGP Glass became a data-rich company leveraging the data to gain advanced insights. The benefits of RTMI was fairly notably immediately and therefore was the company decided to roll-out the innovation on a global scale across 60 production lines.
RTMI — a customised, first-of-its-kind home-grown solution in the glass manufacturing industry, also offered additional real-time insights other than the existing manufacturing execution system and reduced the cost of ownership by 70%. Smart management has led to a reduction in manual data gathering by 40%, resulting in improved employee productivity by 25%. The real-time feedback loop, on the other hand, has led to a 5% reduction in defects, translating into better quality and enhanced predictability of delivery timelines for the customers.
Additionally, RTMI has resulted in a 2-3% improvement in production efficiency with a payback period of less than a year. Due to real-time visibility of production and quality parameters, the plant personnel were able to take quick corrective actions that in turn, eliminate defects. This has resulted in enhanced quality of bottles being delivered to the customer. RTMI predicted the completion of the production run, which in turn provided better visibility to the customer in terms of delivery timelines. With the smart management integrated across all equipment, all sort of issues gets highlighted immediately and gets communicated to the vendors for troubleshooting.
While many of the digital initiatives by PGP Glass have started as experiments, a number of these have scaled up eventually, namely, computer vision to improve worker effectiveness, persuasive technologies to drive innovation, bots to enhance employee productivity, and artificial intelligence (AI) to create a manufacturing process a digital twin.
“We aim to create a massive data platform with real-time data pipelines from our IoT transactional systems. We are on-boarding best-of-breed AI companies and academia, to build a partner ecosystem that will develop various predictive and prescriptive AI and machine learning models,” said Shah.
With the smart use of AI and ML, PGP Glass has been able to augment and assist its personnel in taking faster and smarter data-driven decisions that will result in reduced costs and, in turn, drive profitability. “Our investments in digital and analytics capabilities will provide us with a competitive advantage to delight our customers and blend the art of glass manufacturing with science and AI,” concludes Shah.