Digital transformation in process manufacturing is being exemplified in one of China’s leading dairy companies. The China Mengniu Dairy Company Limited, a conglomerate producing over 400 dairy products for more than 70 million customers in China and abroad, is in the midst of a digital revolution.
Mengniu is deploying quality control information management and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems across 36 labs and facilities throughout the country. It is their next step in building their intelligent factories, their own “Dairy Industry 4.0.”
For dairy producers, food safety and quality control are critical. A single container of milk passes through 35 production steps and 105 testing processes before reaching the consumer. Before they endeavored on their digital transformation journey, Mengniu documented their production steps and test results manually, relying on paper processes and calculating formulas and summarizing test data by hand.
Those manual processes became unwieldy as the company grew, with inspectors facing an ever-growing amount of data. Mengniu knew they needed to upgrade those processes, and modernize their production methods at the same time. They selected Siemens as their partner for innovation. They designed a software and hardware solution combining the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) with Totally Integrated Automation (TIA).
Mengniu began implementing a LIMS solution on the Siemens Simatic IT Unilab platform in 2013. Their scientific test plan was developed with systematic sampling points, sample sizes, testing frequencies, and test instruments to minimize deviations from manual scheduling. Automatically-collected test data is now transmitted to the LIMS for calculation, and verified as compliant with national standards.
“Mengniu is the first dairy producer in China to implement information management of quality control, which, combined with our ERP system, enables the automated management of production processes,” says Song Xiaodong, Head of Quality Safety Management System at Mengniu.
The results have been dramatic. Since the LIMS went live in 2015, testing times have been reduced by 10% to 25% and efficiency increased by more than 15%. Mengniu can now trace quality problems to any step, from receiving or preprocessing, all the way to the exact location in the warehouse.
The Mengniu Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) solutions from Siemens have been implemented in all of its factories. Siemens programmable logic controllers (PLCs) regulate fluid temperature and pressure during pre-processing, and Siemens flowmeters measure pure and soft water flow in filling and sterilizing machines and boiler rooms. 1LG0 motors and other PLCs monitor the positioning of filling boxes, liquid flow, and filling levels.
In their fully automated warehouse in Hohhot, PLCs control the conveyor belt and transmit signals to robot palletizers to ensure that containerized products are stacked neatly and efficiently. Next to the warehouse, PLCs ensure delivery vehicles stay a safe distance from each other to avoid collisions.
When the LIMS finishes testing a batch, results are passed on to the ERP system and transmitted to the PLC via the warehouse management system. The PLC can then command the stackers and delivery trucks and vans to deliver the products from the warehouse.
The digital revolution happening at Mengniu reflects how “Industry 4.0” is impacting every manufacturing segment. Mengniu’s journey will continue as its factory continues its digital transformation through the connection of five major systems, including Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Manufacturing Execution System (MES), production automation, and logistics automation. That connection will move them closer to Dairy Industry 4.0.