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Open call

Unilever Hack & Pitch challenge: Applying new technologies to improve efficiencies of factory packing lines

Open date: Thursday 4 October 2018   Close date: Thursday 25 October 2018

Digital Catapult’s Hack & Pitch competition offers a unique opportunity for startups and scaleups to develop solutions for and pitch ideas to larger manufacturing companies. As part of Smart Factory Expo 2018 on 14 and 15 November, in Liverpool, this year Digital Catapult have partnered with two challenge owners Sellafield and Unilever.

The competition will focus on challenges presented by Unilever and Sellafield:

  • Unilever: Innovative applications of new technologies to improve efficiencies of factory packing lines
  • Sellafield: Remote condition monitoring of nuclear storage containers. Read more about Sellafield challenge here.

Unilever challenge

With over 4,000 packing lines globally, Unilever is looking to improve the efficiency to increase productivity and reduce costs.

Packing lines typically consist of a series of unit operation machines, each linked with conveyors and individually controlled with a programmable logic controller (PLC). In some cases, these PLCs are networked to allow data exchange between machines. In this challenge Unilever wants to harness existing datasets as well as identify new ways to capture data from these processes.

The major causes of line inefficiencies include:

  • The start/stop logic
  • Minor stops typically due to material/machine interactions
  • Breakdowns due to component failure
  • Changeover losses caused by changing line format.

Unilever wants to find ways to better plan, schedule and run packing lines using new tools and methods. Low cost solutions are preferred in order to ensure scalability.

Why you should get involved?

This is an exciting opportunity for innovators and research groups to:

  • Address specific solutions for industry players and apply products to real world challenges
  • Pitch solutions to industry leaders and players in the digital and manufacturing sector with the potential for UK pilots
  • Raise the company profile by gaining exposure at industry recognised Smart Factory Expo
  • Refine understanding of industrial requirements
  • Get an exclusive opportunity to get interviewed and featured online as well as in the Manufacturer magazine.

Who should apply?

We’re looking for innovative cross-industry companies and research groups with cutting edge technologies who can apply their solutions to packing line efficiencies, with a focus on bottle filling packing lines.

Startups, scaleups and researchers who have innovative ideas and can help increase efficiencies in bottle filling packing lines using digital technologies.

These may include companies specialising in:

  • IoT devices
  • Data analytics and Artificial Intelligence
  • Digital twins
  • Optimisation algorithms
  • Automation
  • Simulation

Unilever are open to hear from businesses and academic institutions that are in the early stage of developing a product as well as those who already have a product in the market. Solutions do not have to be developed already for the manufacturing space but should be applicable to this environment.

Additional detail

  • Tuesday 23 October – Open Call closes
  • Thursday 1 November – Webinar briefing with challenge owners for shortlisted candidates
  • Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 November: Hack & Pitch as part of the Smart Factory Expo at Exhibition Centre Liverpool

See our videos from previous Hack & Pitch events: