CHINA – Unilever’s food manufacturing facility in the Chinese county of Taicang has been added to the list of the world’s most advanced factories by the World Economic Forum. 

Since 2018, the World Economic Forum has been recognising companies that incorporate Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies into their manufacturing and supply chain operations. 

These sites adopt and deploy 4IR technology – such as artificial intelligence and Internet of Things – to maximise efficiency and competitiveness, and drive sustainable and responsible business growth, while upskilling the workforce and protecting the environment.  

They also provide a replicable model for manufacturers of all sizes, across different geographies and industries. 

TaiCang is third Unilever site to achieve the status following our Personal Care factories in Dubai, UAE, and Hefei, also in China, which joined the network last year. 

The facility which produces 2 million Wall’s, Magnum, and Cornetto ice creams every day, also becomes the first ice cream factory anywhere in the world to be recognised. 

According to Unilever production at TaiCang uses a host of cutting-edge digital technologies to increase speed and agility. 

For example, through one-click artificial intelligence sales forecasting, Unilever can accurately predict and respond to consumer demand – even for high growth channels such as e-commerce.  

The company has also been able to cut down the time it takes to change a line from one product to another – say vanilla to chocolate Magnums –  to about 9 minutes, increasing agility and enabling production of smaller batch sizes. 

The company has further increased the speed with which it can bring innovations to market: now three months instead of 12 and has also developed new logistics capabilities to deliver ice cream directly to consumers. 

“The digital transformation of the TaiCang factory marks another milestone in our ambition to develop a fully responsive, data-driven manufacturing network,” Jennifer Han, Head of Supply Chain for our Foods & Refreshment division. 

 “It has increased our agility, improved efficiency and is creating exponential value for our customers and consumers. It’s a blueprint for other Unilever ice cream factories undergoing a digital transformation.” 

A focus on sustainability

TaiCang site has also cut out a name for itself as a model of sustainability, with a range of initiatives in place aimed at minimising its footprint on the planet. 

The site’s energy and water consumption is for instance 14%, and carbon emissions by 83%. Further monitoring of consumption data is also being done on a daily basis to identifying areas which could be improved. 

Additionally, Unilever is installing a solar system which will provide around 20% of the sites electricity requirement.  

Unilever is confident that shifting to solar will put TaiCang on track to join our growing list of carbon-neutral sites in the next year or two. 

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