P&G turns to AI to build the digital of the future

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Over the past 184 years, The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) has grown into one of the world’s largest consumer goods manufacturers, with worldwide revenues of more than $76 billion in 2021 and more than 100,000 employees. Its brands are household names, including Charmin, Crest, Dawn, Ferez, Gillette, Olay, Pampers, and Tide.

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In the summer of 2022, P&G sealed a multi-year partnership with Microsoft to replace P&G’s digital creation platform. The partners say they will create the future of digital manufacturing by leveraging the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the digital twin, data and AI to deliver products faster to consumers and customers while improving productivity and reducing costs. satisfaction can be increased.

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“The main objective of our digital transformation is to help create better solutions to the daily problems of millions of consumers around the world, while creating growth and value for all stakeholders,” says Vittorio Cratella, CIO, P&G. “We accelerate innovation and increase productivity in everything we do, by leveraging data, AI and automation with agility and scale in all dimensions of our business.”

The digital transformation of P&G’s manufacturing platform will enable the company to test product quality in real time directly on the production line, maximize equipment flexibility while avoiding waste, and optimize energy and water use in manufacturing plants. Cratella says P&G will make manufacturing smart by enabling scalable predictive quality, predictive maintenance, controlled release, touchless operations and manufacturing sustainability optimization. He says that till date these things have not been done on such a large scale in the manufacturing space.

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large scale smart manufacturing

The company has already started pilot projects in Egypt, India, Japan and the US, which use the Azure IoT Hub and IoT Edge to provide manufacturing technicians with insights to analyze and improve the production of baby care and paper products. be able to help.

For example, the production of diapers involves assembling multiple layers of material with great precision at high speed to ensure optimum absorption, leak protection and comfort. The new IIoT platform uses machine telemetry and high-speed analytics to continuously monitor production lines to provide early detection and prevention of potential issues in material flows. This, in turn, improves cycle times, minimizes network losses, and ensures quality, all while improving operator productivity.

P&G is also piloting the use of IIoT, advanced algorithms, machine learning (ML) and predictive analytics to improve manufacturing efficiencies in the production of paper towels. P&G can now better estimate the length of the finished paper towel sheet.

Smart manufacturing on a large scale is a challenge. This requires taking data from instrument sensors, applying advanced analysis to obtain descriptive and predictive insights, and automating corrective actions. The end-to-end process requires multiple steps, including data integration and algorithm development, training and deployment. It also involves processing large amounts of data and almost real-time.

“The secret to scale is to reduce complexity by providing common components at the edge and in the Microsoft cloud that engineers can work with to deploy diverse use cases in a typical manufacturing environment – ​​without having to build everything from scratch, Cretella says.

Using Microsoft Azure as the foundation, Cretella says that P&G is now able to digitize and integrate data from more than 100 manufacturing sites worldwide and enhance AI, ML and edge computing services for real-time visibility Will happen. In turn, this will enable P&G employees to analyze production data and leverage AI to support decisions that drive improvement and exponential impact.

“Access to this level of data is, by and large, rare within the consumer goods industry,” Cratella says.

Data and AI as Digital Fundamentals

P&G took the first step in its AI journey more than five years ago. It has gone beyond what Cratella calls the “experimentation phase” with scaled solutions and increasingly sophisticated AI applications. Data and AI have since become central to the company’s digital strategy.

“We use AI in all dimensions of our business to predict outcomes and schedule tasks through automation,” says Cratella. “We have applications in our product innovation area, where thanks to modeling and simulation, we can reduce the lead time for developing a new formula from months to weeks; the way we engage with our consumers and communicate, using AI to deliver the brand message to each of them at their right time, right channel and with the right content.”

P&G also uses predictive analysis to determine “where, when, and how consumers shop for them,” says Cretella. Line.

While the recipe for P&G’s scale depends on technology, including investment in a scalable data and AI environment focused on cross-functional data lakes, Cretella says that P&G’s secret sauce is the skills of hundreds of talented data scientists and engineers. Those who understand the company’s business inside and out. , To that end, P&G’s future is about embracing the automation of AI, which will allow its data engineers, data scientists, and ML engineers to spend less time on manual, labor-intensive tasks so they can focus on those areas. where they add value.

“The automation of AI allows us to deliver with consistent quality and manage bias and risk,” he says, adding that automated AI will also “make these capabilities accessible to a greater number of employees, thus increasing the risk of AI. The benefits will be broadened by the company.”

power of the people

Another element of achieving agility at scale is P&G’s “holistic” approach to building teams in an IT organization. P&G balances the organization between the central teams and teams involved in its categories and markets. Central teams create enterprise platforms and technology foundations, while embedded teams use those platforms and foundations to build digital solutions that address the specific business opportunities of their units. Cratella also notes that the company particularly prioritizes insourcing talent in areas such as data science, cloud management, cyber security, software engineering, and DevOps.

To accelerate P&G’s transformation, Microsoft and P&G have created a Digital Enablement Office (DEO), staffed by experts from both organizations. The DEO will act as an incubator to create high priority business landscapes in the areas of product manufacturing and packaging processes, which P&G can implement across the company. Cratella treats it more as a project management office than a center of excellence.

“It coordinates all the efforts of the various innovation teams that work on business use cases and ensures efficient scale deployment of proven solutions that are being developed,” he says.

Cratella has some advice for CIOs trying to drive digital transformation in their organizations: “First, get inspired and find your energy in the passion for business and how to apply technology to create value. Second, learn Be armed with tons of agility and genuine curiosity to learn. Lastly, invest in the people – your team, your teammates, your boss – because technology alone doesn’t change things; people do.”

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