A leading supplier of injection moulding equipment and services to the plastics industry, Husky continuously improves its business and manufacturing processes through standardisation, lean manufacturing and similar activities. While these actions have yielded positive results, top management wanted to go further. “Our CEO decided to launch one major project aimed at rethinking our entire end-to-end business process,” recalls Jean-Christophe Witz, Husky’s Director of Digitalization.

Our aim was to go beyond our standard manufacturing operations and focus on the digitalisation of the complete end-to-end process.

Starting off in 2016 from a blank sheet of paper, Mr Witz and his colleagues set out to define the scope of the project. “Our aim was to go beyond our standard manufacturing operations and focus on the digitalisation of the complete end-to-end process, from defining solutions for customers and creating evolving drawings to determining what information should flow to the factory and shape the manufacturing process,” explains Mr Witz. “This includes the full vertical and digital integration of all operations concerned. Our ultimate goal is to achieve breakthrough performance in terms of speed, i.e. the time needed to define, produce and deliver a product, and of operational efficiency. We were targeting an efficiency gain of around 30%.”

Skills and government support: the Luxembourg advantage

Husky’s main manufacturing facilities are located in Canada, the United States and Europe. The company chose its production site in Dudelange, located in the south of Luxembourg, for the initial implementation of the Industry 4.0 project. “There were two main reasons for launching this project in Luxembourg. Firstly, because we had people with the right skills to design, lead and implement such a pioneering activity here. Secondly, because we received considerable support from the Ministry of the Economy to help speed up the process,” says Mr Witz.

Husky called on the expertise of the national innovation agency Luxinnovation to optimise the project and prepare a solid request for a national R&D subsidy. The initiative had an overall budget of approximately €11 million, and the Ministry of the Economy offered a subsidy of around €3.4 million. “This project is a concrete illustration of our digital innovation strategy in the priority field of Industry 4.0,” commented Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy Étienne Schneider in February 2019.

Strategic partnerships

Husky selected several key partners with whom to work throughout this journey, including Siemens and the University of Luxembourg. The company has a long history of using Siemens’ software. “We have always been very well connected in the field of R&D on the product side, but working on the entire end-to-end process is a different topic altogether,” says Mr Witz. “We are connecting a full range of software and solutions in order to create a seamless process flow.” In order to be able to provide all the expertise needed, teams from Siemens in eight different countries are involved in the collaboration.

We are connecting a full range of software and solutions in order to create a seamless process flow.

The University of Luxembourg also contributed to the project. “We needed to get a better understanding of artificial intelligence and data analytics, and PhD students from the university’s engineering science unit provided the knowledge that we needed in this field,” explains Mr Witz.

In addition to connecting with external resources, Husky is also building the internal know-how needed for the full-scale implementation of the Industry 4.0 project. In order to ensure that its team members will get the necessary training for working in a fully digitalised environment, the company has joined the Luxembourg Digital Skills Bridge initiative. This programme aims to provide technical and financial assistance to upskill employees in firms facing major technological advancement.

First Industry 4.0 pilot completed

During the 18-month project implementation, Mr Witz and his team successfully developed a real-life proof of concept. “We digitalised all the business processes related to one existing product and did all the testing and validating needed to prove that our concept really works,” he says. The next step is implementing the same model for all products manufactured on the Dudelange site.

NGOM is one of the main projects enabling Husky’s digital transition and the largest investment coming up in the next three years. The technology and know-how developed in Luxembourg is being deployed across the company’s different sites around the world, including their headquarters in Bolton, Ontario, Canada.

Photo: © nirutft