Date: Thursday, November 1, 2018

Estonian chemicals manufacturer eliminates production bottlenecks at new factory

Chemi-Pharm AS, based in Tallinn, Estonia, develops, produces and sells allergen-free disinfection agents, cleaning and maintenance products, and a luxury skin care line. The company’s main customers are in the medical sector. Chemi-Pharm is represented in 17 countries and export makes up over 70 per cent of the whole production. 

Indoor logistics is important

In the big picture of all company processes, internal logistics is not often thought of as a significant challenge. Yet, Kristo Timberg, Chief Operating Officer of Chemi-Pharm, began to pay attention when he learned about the L4MS programme.

“As a leader of a manufacturing company I was looking at the whole company and all of its processes. Internal logistics is just one of them and often not the most influential. But since at Chemi-Pharm we are constantly looking into innovative solutions and keeping ourselves on our toes to keep moving forward and doing things that others aren’t, the decision of getting involved in L4MS was an easy one.”

The company is presently constructing a new manufacturing facility and wanted to optimise its layout and indoor logistics.

“In the beginning it was somewhat difficult to grasp exactly what is in the scope of L4MS”, Mr Timberg says. “But as time went on and we got more involved, it has become quite clear – we will soon have autonomous logistics robots moving around in our manufacturing and warehouse units.”

Getting it right from the beginning 

During the L4MS experiment, Chemi-Pharm produced a 3D model of the new factory.

“The 3D model has actually already proved to be useful in preparing for moving the manufacturing unit to new location”, Mr Timberg says.

"We are trying out different layouts and scenarios in Virtual Reality, so that the warehouse manager and other people can literally walk through all processes and decide whether the layout setting is OK or if anything should be changed. The result should be that when we move we know exactly where things are going and what we need to prepare.”

Quality and efficiency in focus 

Quality is fundamental for Chemi-Pharm’s customers. Quality control is an important part of being able to ensure high quality products to Chemi-Pharm customers. Any error can lead to significant losses. The logistics system will reduce human effort in making entries into IT systems. It improves traceability of products and ingredients as well as offers feedback about manufacturing processes in real time. The company also estimates being able to replace 1–2 warehouse workers and, more importantly, make all of the manufacturing processes much more flexible and smoother.

“Of course, replacing the workers doesn’t mean laying them off. This is very important to get right from the beginning. It means they can focus on more value adding tasks.”

Mr Timberg expects that the main benefits will come from focusing and standardising the internal logistics function.

“Assuming that manufacturing lines will see less downtime with the L4MS solutions, the effectiveness as well as capacity of the manufacturing unit should increase remarkably. It looks like small things and small changes, but often small things have the biggest effect.”

Networking and collaboration 

The networking aspect of L4MS is important to Kristo Timberg.

“The biggest learning experience so far has come from discussions with other members of the consortium. Just hearing about different experiences and robotics as well as other automation solutions that have been used in the world, and hearing about how much they cost or how they actually work have given me a sound feel for what can, cannot, could or should be done. This has sparked more ideas and thinking about our internal logistics processes has influenced the way we are developing and setting up our manufacturing processes and ICT solutions.”

Data and an open mind will win the future Mr Timberg thinks data will be at the core of most of future development.

“It is not about having interoperability in your mechanical processes anymore, it is much more about having data interoperability. Robots and other mechanical solutions are already there, you can buy them and use them, but the potential value in them will not be fully used until they start interacting with all the other systems.”

Data, however, will not be the recipe for survival on its own.

“It is not just getting a specific solution for a specific problem, it is also the mindset of constantly looking for new ways, new solutions and innovating – being open to change. Because SMEs who don’t invest in developing and changing their processes, who are just hoping to get by with doing everything in an average way, will very soon find themselves in a situation where all competitors have become faster and more flexible and the pace of change and innovation have become so fast that it will be much more difficult to keep up with.”

Main benefits of the experiments

● Automate the transporting and moving of raw materials and ready products. A variety of ingredients and materials, like chemicals, bottles, boxes etc need to be transported from warehouse to the manufacturing unit depending on the product under manufacturing. The boxes of the finished products can vary in terms of weight and size and should be transported to storage before the delivery.
● Reduce human factor and effort by minimising entries into IT systems
● Interaction between human forklift operators and AGVs

See details of the Chemi-Pharm pilot 

More information:

Kristo Timberg
COO, Chemi-Pharm

Want to develop your logistics with L4MS? Apply to our Open Call by 30th Nov HERE 

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