When it comes to Italian design – or Italian cuisine for that matter – we are passionate fans. From automobiles and fashion to mill products, furniture and construction, design innovation matters for Italian companies across industries.
Arpa Industriale S.p.A. offers a perfect case study. Over 60 years of investment in research and a commitment implementing Industry 4.0 technologies have helped the company gain a global reputation for innovative Italian design and unsurpassed quality in high-end surface materials.
The story below involving use of Industry 4.0 technologies to reinvent production, reduce waste and optimize quality is highly relevant to paper and packaging companies – so please read on!
A New Factory Built from Scratch for a One-of-a-Kind Product Line
Arpa designed and built the FENIX factory to continuously improve and innovate.
Since its launch in 2013, FENIX surface materials had become one of the most important product lines for Arpa, accounting for over 50% of the company’s turnover. And while FENIX is revolutionizing interior design worldwide, it’s expensive and prone to defects using traditional HPL production processes. The surface is very thin, and the matte surface will show even the slightest defect. Defects that result in a large amount of wasteful scrap materials.
Arpa knew it could further improve product quality – which is why it built a new factory dedicated solely to the FENIX line. This factory has helped Arpa stabilize and optimize a complex supply and production process – while enabling it to meet ambitious targets for renewable energy use, resource consumption, and waste reduction.
Designed from the Ground Up to Continuously Improve
Arpa designed and built the FENIX factory to continuously improve and innovate by constantly monitoring and analyzing all aspects of operation – from the warehouse and plant floor machinery to the air conditioning system. The factory runs entirely on SAP software – which establishes a single integrated technology platform to drive ongoing innovation.
Arpa connected the factory’s programmable logic controller (PLC) directly to its plant connectivity system. This allows the FENIX factory team to monitor everything in real-time, running PLC sensor data through machine learning algorithms to analyze every millisecond of daily operations.
Instead of analyzing what’s done wrong, Arpa uses dashboards, predictive analytics, and embedded automation to identify the very best employee practices and then “coach” the plant machinery to deliver the same results.
For example, scrap-monitoring dashboards help operators identify the employees with the best scrap-reduction practices. By combining this insight with configuration changes in the factory’s application landscape, the FENIX factory eliminated almost all of its scrap waste in the first year of operation!
Sensor Data Visibility for Total Supply Automation
The FENIX factory’s sensor network is extensive. Over 1,600 sensors cover everything from raw material, warehouse, and production operations to an industrial-scale HVAC system and an award-winning 2-megawatt solar array that powers the factory. All of the PLC sensor data, messages, and events are visible – allowing the FENIX factory team to identify intelligent automation opportunities across all aspects of the operation.
The factory warehouse operation, for example, is fully automated. Laser-guided vehicles (LGVs) work autonomously 24x7 to scan, load, and reload rolls of raw materials on to production machines. To keep raw material provisioning and production line scheduling in synch with latest demand signals, the LGVs stay connected in real-time with the latest order information from CRM and warehouse management applications.
And by capturing PLC sensor/consumption data every few milliseconds and using predictive algorithms to analyze 5,000 different parameters, the factory has helped improve product quality while reducing energy and water consumption to a fifth of what it was a year earlier.
The Factory of the Future: Sustainable operations and ROI
So far, the results are dramatic:
- 96% reduction in scrap waste
- 80% reduction in water, energy, and other resources used
- 6x productivity improvement over traditional high-pressure laminate factories
- €750,000 in production cost saving in the first year
Sensor data combined with predictive analytics and operational dashboards will enable the factory team to reduce waste by another 50% over the next year. But these benefits are just the beginning for the FENIX factory and Arpa.
An Innovative Factory Designed As an Innovation Pipeline
So much of Arpa’s success hinges on the key decisions they made at the beginning of the project, such as running entirely on an integrated business technology platform from a single enterprise software provider. This approach helps FENIX factory team dramatically reduce complexity and fast track new breakthroughs to its other factories, including embedding the latest employee best practices into target factory’s operations.
In fact, Arpa’s approach to design innovation helped establish the FENIX factory as an Industry 4.0 best-practice and solution model for manufacturing and supply chain excellence worldwide – to which I say, “Bravissimo!”