P&G Levels Up Manufacturing With Machine Learning and AI

Liz Dominguez
Managing Editor
Liz Dominguez
P&G logo on building

Procter & Gamble is overhauling its manufacturing, looking to reduce costs, improve productivity, and increase consumer satisfaction. 

The latest initiative with P&G is the result of a new multiyear relationship with Microsoft Corp., which will allow the company to tap into a digital platform that will leverage the Internet of Things and help accelerate growth and innovation. 

Implementing AI, machine learning, and edge computing services, P&G will have greater visibility and be able to digitize and integrate data from more than 100 manufacturing sites globally. This will enable the company’s employees to analyze production data and make real-time, data-informed decisions to drive significant improvements. 

A Measurable Impact on Various Business Areas

The company is already implementing technology from Microsoft Azure that allows technicians to quickly analyze insights, which are informing improvements in the baby care and paper products segment via pilots in Egypt, India, Japan, and the U.S. 

Here’s a look at those pilots:

P&G is looking to use machine learning and data storage platforms to improve energy use across paper machines in the family care segment. Using large volumes of holistic data sets, the company can determine which machines require maintenance and where energy use can be cut. Along with historical data, this effort will also allow P&G to access data sets such as production runs, downtime, changeovers, and more.

Within the diaper space, P&G is looking to reduce manufacturing downtime, minimize scrap, and lower expenses related to maintenance — all of which can be automatically detected and realized. In an area that requires assembling multiple layers of materials at high speeds — and where precision is key — technology that can monitor product lines and detect any issues early on can prove invaluable. According to the company, the platform will improve cycle time, reduce rework losses, and ensure quality. A bonus: It should also improve operational efficiency.

paper towels pilot at P&GAmong the pilots is a push to improve efficiency across paper tower production. Source: P&G

Another pilot is focusing on paper towels, specifically using technology to predict finished sheet lengths to deliver more accurate products to consumers.

Using sensors on the manufacturing line, the technology will leverage algorithms, machine learning, and predictive analytics to improve efficiency here as well. 

P&G in particular is among CGs making a big push toward sustainable and more inclusive packaging. As materials and processes change, these predictive technologies will allow the company to innovate with speed and avoid costly mistakes that often come with more manual manufacturing processes. 

Learn More About How CGs Are Implementing Machine Learning

Vittorio Cretella, CIO of P&G, said that the company is looking to make manufacturing smarter, enabling scalable, predictive quality, predictive maintenance, controlled release, touchless operations, and manufacturing sustainability optimization — something that he said has not been done at this scale in the manufacturing space as of yet.

"At P&G, data and technology are at the heart of our business strategy and are helping create superior consumer experiences,” Cretella added. “This first-of-its-kind co-innovation agreement will digitize and integrate data to increase quality, efficiency and sustainable use of resources to help deliver those superior experiences.”

Creating a Digital Enablement Office

As part of the partnership, the companies have created a Digital Enablement Office (DEO), which will include experts from both P&G and Microsoft who will jointly deploy the Azure platform and use the group as an incubator for innovation. The office will create “high priority business scenarios” across product manufacturing and packaging which can be implemented across P&G.

[More about P&G: P&G Making Strides in Inclusive Packaging With Dawn EZ-Squeeze]

"We are excited to help P&G accelerate its digital manufacturing platform using Microsoft Azure, AI, and IoT to accommodate volatility in the consumer products industry with innovative, agile solutions that can easily scale based on market conditions," said Judson Althoff, Microsoft's chief commercial officer. "Our partnership will further P&G's growth and business transformation through digital technology that seamlessly connects people, assets, workflow, and business processes that promote resiliency."

CGs Pushing Deeper Into Analytics

The consumer goods space is ripe for innovation using machine learning, AI, and predictive analysis. According to CGT and RIS’ recent Analytics Study, CGs are bullish on their analytics skills (28%) and tools (19%), ranking themselves better than their direct competition. But there’s plenty of opportunity to grow — more than half of CGs rank themselves as either “lagging” or “significantly lagging” in every category explored in the study. 

David Dittmann, VP and chief analytics officer at Procter & Gamble, is diving deeper into the topic of analytics — with a focus on loyalty — at our upcoming Analytics Unite event. Want to hear from P&G first-hand? Register for a spot today!

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