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Piramal Glass Implements India’s first IoT solution in the glass manufacturing Industry

After implementing the Real Time Manufacturing Insights, (RTMI), the production efficiency has been enhanced by 1 percent, which means the production lines (each of the five plants) are able to manufacture 1 percent more, which amount to 20 crore in monetary terms, since the technology started working in all the plants over nine months back

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Piramal Glass, a global specialist in design, production, and decoration of glass packaging (flaconnage) solutions for pharmaceutical, cosmetics & perfumery, and specialty food & beverage industries, has deployed Microsoft’s Azure IoT platform to digitally transform its manufacturing operations. An early adopter of the technology, Piramal Glass has currently implemented the solution, Real-Time Manufacturing Insights (RTMI), on 46 production lines across their four plants at Kosamba and Jambusar in Gujarat, India, Sri Lanka and the United States of America. The plants have an overall capacity of 1375 tons per day, with 12 furnaces and 60 production lines, all of which run on a 24/7 basis.

Piramal Glass has leveraged IoT to get real-time visibility into its line manufacturing operations and to analyze production line losses at various stages. Using Azure IoT Hub, Microsoft helped Piramal Glass acquire data from sensors on production lines to identify quality parameters at each stage and get insights on line efficiencies in real-time. This resulted in improved production efficiency and cost reduction up to 70% as compared to a glass industry manufacturing execution system (MES).

The RoI from IoT has been impressive. “The production efficiency has been enhanced by 1 percent, which means the production lines (each of the five plants) are able to manufacture 1 percent more, which amount to 20 crore in monetary terms, since the technology started working in all the plants over nine months back. It has also resulted in 70 percent reduction in TCO,” says Vijay Shah, Director – Piramal Glass & Executive Director – Piramal Enterprises

As one of the the world’s largest supplier of glass packaging solutions, Piramal Glass is committed to continuously adding value to its customers. “We are happy to have collaborated with Microsoft on our journey towards digital transformation and business critical future readiness. Glass manufacturing is a complex process with many interactive variables. Combining digital technologies with precision high-quality glass manufacturing, has helped us fortify our accelerated growth path.” says Poorav Sheth, CDO, Piramal Glass.

The Azure IoT platform enabled Piramal 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 rapidly showcase the results and build on its existing sensors, equipment, systems, and data.

To facilitate this transformation, Precimetrix, a Microsoft partner, brought in its Plant Monitoring System hosted on Microsoft Azure. The sensors on high speed conveyor lines were interfaced with data acquisition devices that record the key metrics, as the bottles move along the production line. This data is aggregated on an edge gateway and then pushed to Precimetrix’s Plant Monitoring System on the cloud.

A custom solution was developed on top of this platform to provide stage-wise losses, production reports, quality control workflows as well as role-specific KPIs on PCs and smartphones of plant personnel. Actionable alerts are sent through SMS, email and push notifications whenever there is an anomaly detected or the production efficiency drops. In summary, RTMI has democratized real-time information availability to all plant stakeholders, enabling them to take faster decisions.

The RTMI programme will positively impact the plant head, production employees, which include employees manning the machines, supervisors, HoDs, Quality Control, Quality Assurance, logistics, furnace teams, engineering teams. About 90 percent of the stakeholder departments will get impacted. “The overall cost for RTMI was less than 1/3rd of the MES software procured from a european company, which is used by most of the glass companies globally. However, it was implemented at just three production lines, when i joined the company,” says Sheth.    

RTMI results in lesser bottle rejections
Glass manufacturing has complex processes with a considerable rejection rate. It can range from 8 percent upto 20 percent. IoT can catch the errors in the manufacturing cycle early, using sensors. The data can be provided instantaneously to avoid further rejections due to similar reasons.

The business is highly instrumentation heavy and thus capital intensive. Real time communication of the production data generated at the glass manufacturing assembly line can impact operational efficiency. As compared to the data provided with a certain time lag. Employees on the shop floor, when powered with real time data can take corrective actions and avoid leakages, wastage. Energy cost is very high. It is over 25 percent of the total costs incurred on manufacturing. IoT helps save energy costs by controlling temperature, air blown during manufacturing, regulating machine speeds, etc. It’s not only the IoT that is influencing these benefits but it’s done by integrating IoT with other operational technologies like Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Technology (SCADA). “The way it happens is – in the ascending order – massive data collection, faster data transfer followed by overlaying AI, ML to extricate intelligence out of the data. The plan is also to make the machines read the data, understand and take decisions by itself rather than humans correcting the temperature, for example,” says Shah.

Data Flow
The data flows from the sensors of the machines to the intermittent devices provided by Moxa, from where it relays to the field gateway, which is based on-premise, in the manufacturing plants. It’s a computing device, where the data is aggregated and cleaned up. Subsequently, quality data is pushed to the Microsoft Azure cloud. This happens in real time.

The furnace part of the manufacturing process has the most amount of sensors attached followed by the inspection machines, where the photo of every bottle is taken to check for defects. There are close to 300 bottles that pass every minute on the inspection line. Photo and camera based sensors, both work together. There are over 20 different kinds of sensors, which are temperature rated and can withstand temperatures of upto 90 degree celsius. The sensors have been bought from the German sensor manufacturer ‘Sick’.            

Successful PoC
The company floated an RFP for the IoT technology. A mix of companies submitted the bids, which had large companies and startups. Microsoft won the race along with their partner Precimetrix. Microsoft provides the IoT cloud platform for data processing and Precimetrix does the plant monitoring, which includes not only IT but operational technology (OT), too. It basically involves integration of the Information Technology element with the legacy machines installed in the production line. “We have also done custom development specifically for our requirements,” says Sheth.

Piramal Glass began a PoC on Real Time Manufacturing Insights (RTMI) i.e IoT, in June 2017 for three manufacturing lines. Overall there are 60 manufacturing lines across four (two in India and one each in USA and Sri Lanka) manufacturing locations globally. “The sensors are embedded from the furnace level of the manufacturing line until the bottles are packed. The raw material, sand, soda ash, etc is poured into a furnace at over 1500 degree celsius temperature. The raw material gets melted here to form what is known as molten glass,” says Sheth. In the furnace process, there are about 150 variables (temperature, air flow, oxygen, humidity, etc), which are monitored using the sensors. Hitherto the parameters were recorded in a paper based log book.

The PoC was monitored for three months, until September. The results were impressive. “We were able to find out, where the defects in the bottle were originating from; areas of defects and the reasons. This resulted in getting us the required buy-in from the operations team. They also suggested us additional features. Thus enhancements were added from September to November 2017.” informs Sheth.

A phase two rollout was conducted in the same three production lines. The respective personnel were invited to view how RTMI worked, the data gathered, etc. They got convinced of the viability and effectiveness of the technology. A whole hog rollout began in February 2018 and thus far RTMI has been implemented in 46 production lines. In the past two months, data is getting acquired from close to four thousand sensors. “Up until now, we have analysed close to 2 mn datapoints,” says Sheth. In the USA plant, there is a $20 mn automation project that is planned and therefore, the IoT rollout will be done later. New equipment rollout is awaited in the USA plant, which will require reconfiguration of the manufacturing plant.     

Employee training, awareness and ideation workshops   
An extensive training of the manpower was also carried out for the approximately 900 employee base using the RTMI system. Both classroom and hands-on training was conducted. The UX of the system has been customised for the semi-educated workforce. Many of them are not even literate, so the challenge was to have a UX that will mean the same for all kinds of users. “I organised a 72 hour UX challenge on a crowdsourcing platform viz. Topcoder. Twenty companies submitted their designs for data entry and report screens, and i chose the design from a spanish company, which was awarded with a prize money. The point is the UX was designed and ready to use in three days,” says Sheth.

It’s important for the employees to get a feel of the technologies available and how will they have in case, they are implemented. “We hired a vendor and did roadshows in all the companies, giving demonstrations of AI, IoT, VR, AR and many other technologies. Moreover, an ideation workshop was organised for the employees on how would they like to see these technologies change their functions. On the basis of the suggestions, received, about 50 ideas have been prioritised and a roadmap has been created to implement the ideas over a period of three years. We are at the year two of the roadmap and about 17 ideas have been implemented already,” says Sheth.

Piramal Glass is the largest specialty glass player in Asia and has been the fastest growing glass company in the world for over a decade. The company is the only significant player from Asia with a strong presence in the premium segment. It has progressed rapidly on its Digital Transformation journey and has made substantial investments in IoT as well as other digital technologies. While many of its digital initiatives started as experiments, a number of these have been scaled up, namely, computer vision to improve worker effectiveness, persuasive technologies to drive innovation, bots to enhance employee productivity & AI to create a manufacturing process Digital Twin.

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