The Suntory Kita-Alps Shinano-no-Mori Water Plant Aims to Become a Model for a Next-generation Factory.
Enabling Precise Traceability and Reforming Factory Management and Workstyles through Use of the Latest Digital Technologies.
The Suntory Kita-Alps Shinano-no-Mori Water Plant, which began operating at the end of May 2021, supplies Suntory Tennensui mineral water to the Nagano, Niigata, Hokuriku, and Tokai areas. Surrounded by nature, this factory is Suntory’s fourth such facility in Japan, and is operated using the latest digital technologies. These technologies facilitate the integration and use of factory-wide data, and aim to create a fully optimized, ever-evolving model for a next-generation factory. In addition to strict production and quality control, the technologies enable rapid response and explanations regarding supply chain inquiries, and in turn promote product safety and reliability. Further, by transforming factory management and operation and improving employee safety through avoidance of the Three Cs (closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings), the technologies contribute greatly to new workstyles that are ideally suited to the new normal.
Key to the implementation of these technologies was the creation of an IoT platform using AI. The IoT platform created for this new factory quickly collects and integrates a range of data from production facilities/equipment and IT systems across the factory — such as systems for procurement, manufacturing, quality control, and shipping —and links the data together for use in the platform’s built-in applications.
Previously, tracing the history of each product required supervisors to collect and examine the relevant data, a process which required time, experience, and expertise. This new platform is equipped with a precise traceability system that enables the integrated management of all information necessary for each product, allowing the rapid provision of information and explanations upon receiving customer inquiries. Further, errors with production facilities and equipment are quickly identified, and by checking influence on product quality and analyzing the accumulated data, the platform facilitates constant quality improvements.
There were previously many routine tasks, such as the creation of reports, that were dependent on employees. This new IoT platform is equipped with an application that enables the visualization and analysis of data via a dashboard. In digitalizing and automating work that was previously undertaken by employees, the platform promotes remote working and at the same time improves operational efficiency. While promoting workstyle reform, the platform aims to promote a shift to more creative work that can only be undertaken by humans.
Up until now, individual optimized systems were in charge of collecting and using data from each process and production line. This new IoT platform collects and integrates data from production facilities/equipment and IT systems across the factory, enabling optimal use of factory-wide data. By enabling the visualization and digitalization of processes across the factory, the IoT platform can speed up the PDCA cycle, lead to new realizations, and allow for further sophisticated factory management.