Lonza is using technology for scalable manufacturing

Lonza is using technology for scalable manufacturing
Firm is using tech from OSIsoft and Microsoft for a unified data management system across all its plants

Rebecca Gibson |

This article was originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.

Lonza is a Swiss multinational, chemicals and biotechnology company that was founded around 120 years ago. The company, which took around 110 years to build its team up to around 9,000 employees, has expanded rapidly over the past two years and now has approximately 14,500 full-time personnel working at more than 100 office and manufacturing plants across the world. 

One of Lonza’s key business segments is Lonza Specialty Ingredients (LSI), which operates 32 plants worldwide and manufactures a wide range of products, including everything from vitamins to jet fuel. This means the company has a diverse and complex manufacturing network, where several operational processes take place simultaneously. 

To streamline its processes and ultimately become a more competitive manufacturer, Lonza knew that it had to digitise its operations. Although Lonza expects to take around 10-15 years to fully digitalise all LSI operations, its research and technology (R&T) team set out a roadmap for the company to become a smart manufacturer and recognised the importance of using data to solve operational challenges and employee pain points. The team explored the potential of using sensors during the production process, as well as how tools such as artificial intelligence, data analytics and blockchain could be used to solve problems faced by employees, and thereby reduce costs. 

Lonza’s R&T team spent six months working with the engineering and operations technology teams to identify the pain points in the different manufacturing plants. Together, they developed the Productivity ImproVement with Operations Technology philosophy, which has since become the core of the company’s smart manufacturing roadmap. One of the biggest pain points was that Lonza’s process optimisation engineers were spending almost half of their time collecting and analysing data for optimisation projects, slowing down processes further down the line and thus creating a ­bottleneck. Hence, Lonza wanted to find a way to remove this bottleneck and enable the engineers to use their time more efficiently, work on more projects and therefore drive more revenue. 

To achieve this, Lonza decided to implement a unified data management system across all the plants, replacing the existing individual local management systems at each site. It enlisted the help of OSIsoft, Microsoft, SEEQ and Hans-Meyer-Engineering. OSIsoft, which provides IoT analytics and a digital infrastructure named PI System, was ideally placed to assist Lonza due to its previous experience of helping other manufacturers reap the benefits of data-driven decision making and IoT analytics. 

At the same time, Lonza was able to benefit from OSIsoft’s and Microsoft’s joint Red Carpet Incubation Program. Designed to reduce the burden of data preparation required for Industry 4.0 initiatives, the programme helped Lonza to quickly accelerate advanced analytics projects.

OSIsoft’s technical team began the project by working with Lonza’s users to understand the challenges they were facing so it could identify the key priorities for the project. The team organised calls every week for two months, exchanging information and fine-tuning their findings. Once the information was collected and validated, Lonza decided to implement the solutions globally. The initial idea was simple; to get the processed data visible on a global scale. It took around three months to get the infrastructure right, migrate everything to the cloud, pilot the solution and eventually roll it out to employees. 

One of the immediate benefits of OSIsoft’s cloud solution was that it provided Lonza’s employees with enhanced visibility into the information they needed to perform their daily tasks. It also provided the company with a very simple way of getting a lot of value from its operations and assets.  

From a commercial point of view, the main benefit is that the solution is scalable. Lonza started with two sites and one problem – manufacturing process optimisation – but migrating to a cloud solution has provided the company with three main benefits. First, the company is able to quickly and easily tackle any operational pain points anywhere in the business. Second, the cloud infrastructure can easily be scaled to Lonza’s other sites as the business expands and operational and employee needs evolve. Finally, when Lonza acquires new sites, it knows exactly how to integrate them with its existing facilities.

Moving processes to the cloud has also changed the way Lonza operates. Since deploying the solution, Lonza has reduced costs at certain sites by several percentage points – a significant achievement. By taking simple and gradual, but profitable and sensible steps, Lonza has implemented the systems it needs to begin operating on a global scale. 

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