Innovative Corporations Lay the Framework for Collaboration with Startups
In the digitalization of Industry, successful corporations have honed the startup-corporate relationship to leverage the strengths of each. This is the case for a global distributor of consumer goods, Unilever which, through the connection and joint work with various technology startups, has been able to create disruptive tools, capable of solving many of the challenges that companies face today in the race toward Industry 4.0.
BIND 4.0 helps bridge the gap between corporations and emerging companies, providing guidance, training and support for all parties involved. In conjunction with BIND 4.0, Unilever has created space for collaboration as a large corporation focused on improving processes and providing employees and customers with quality resources.
Unilever is one of the large, top-tier firms that has been able to experience, during two editions, many of the benefits of participating in BIND 4.0. Among these benefits, is the creation of an environment of innovation and collaboration where startups can do all the tests necessary until they find the perfect and personalized solution to improve their processes. This is stated by the Supply Chain Digital Transformation Manager of Unilever, Alain Ibañez, who has extensive experience in collaborative projects. “During the development process of a pilot project of a startup, both parties must give up their expectations and be willing to scale, adapt and commit. When we work with startups, we look for teams with expertise and flexibility, then together we can find the best solution.” he adds.
Benefits for Corporations Participating in BIND 4.0
The benefits of being part of BIND 4.0 for top-tier companies are many. In the first place, BIND 4.0 facilitates the detection and recruitment of the best startups in the world, scouting the highest quality emerging companies, capable of meeting the technological challenges of the corporate partners. “BIND 4.0 delivers the startups and identifies specialists in different areas for corporations, so they have a list of startups to choose from instead of spending a lot of time researching. And they also encounter technologies they didn’t know they were looking for.” said Mikel Tejadas, Director of Digitization of Food Factories of Unilever in Europe.
BIND 4.0 also encourages the development of innovative projects, with visible short-term results, and offers support to the participating corporations to develop new capacities, in order to get the most out of working with innovative startups. Lastly, it connects partners with leaders and experts in Open Innovation and Industry 4.0.
An Accelerator of New Technologies
Hodeia Digital is one of the startups Unilever encountered and contracted in the current BIND 4.0 edition. A company specialized in Big Data and Advanced Analytics, which has created the application BuildApp, capable of digitizing and centralizing information from different areas such as production, quality and maintenance. “Unilever’s philosophy is to support local startups to find new technological solutions capable of responding to the needs of their factories. Thanks to this collaboration, our BuildApp platform is growing in functionality and usability “, says Eder Berceruelo, Product Manager of Hodeia Digital.
BIND 4.0 Corporate Partners are leading corporations which have committed to finding new solutions and allowing time for collaboration with emerging technologies during the program. Unilever has been accelerating technology internally for years and Digital Transformation Managers like Alain Ibañez lay the groundwork internally for pilot projects, he advocates for their time and preparing his team for the new environment. In the words of Mikel Tejadas, the Director of digitization of food factories of Unilever in Europe and the Director of the food factory in Poznan, “This kind of collaboration needs to have special management and someone like a corporate ‘guardian angel’ to keep Industry 4.0 projects safe, give them time and allow a safe environment for trial, failure and growth.“
Global Leaders Invest in Cutting-Edge Solutions
Unilever knows how to be successful. With more than 400 brands of food products and 100 factories around the world, the company is an industry leader and knows their business needs well. For this reason, Unilever is aware of the importance of investing in cutting-edge technologies and how through startups, new solutions can be developed in an agile and secure way. Unilever began working in 2020, in the 4th edition of BIND 4.0, with the German Artificial Intelligence startup, Bleenco, on a pilot project based on the analysis of employee videos to improve ergonomics, training and safety.
Additionally, Unilever saw great adaptability of Bleenco’s EHS automation solutions for its production, globally. “We were in permanent contact with Unilever’s Digital Transformation Manager, Alain Ibañez, to find the best environment to develop the pilot project. When we expanded the collaboration to their international factories, we were introduced to the right local contacts who were very supportive and facilitated successful execution.” said Julian Hettich, Business Development at Bleenco. But finally, with the arrival of the health crisis due to COVID19, Bleenco’s artificial intelligence technology allowed Unilever to comply with the new safety regulations and security requirements. Unilever, among other things, used video analytics to measure the temperature of its employees and thus ensure their safety.
Traditionally, large companies work like tankers, moving slowly and methodically. In contrast, startups are like speedboats. So said Mikel Tejadas of Unilever, who used the analogy to explain the collaboration process of corporations and startups. “We are building a lot of speedboats, doing different projects in one plant under the fail fast / learn fast motto, testing solutions, killing projects as needed and trying again. Once tested and perfected, Unilever can implement these technologies in all of its factories and plants.”
Collaboration and Integration of Innovative Solutions
The collaboration project with Bleenco continues to grow, in addition, Unilever contracted another BIND 4.0 alumni, augmented reality Neosentec. For their part, Neosentec has created the AR platform, Onirix, which allows users to easily view the data regarding maintenance, repairs, cleaning, etc. Carlos González, COO of Neosentec explains: “With Onirix, the operator can be guided to the next point of his task, visually; or put a training video on physical items inside the factory.” Neosentec’s relationship with Unilever stems from a pilot project, where Unilever began testing the possibilities of augmented reality. Theirs is a transformative story that begins with a small project, and whose goal is to evolve to have Onirix available in all Unilever factories by 2022.
All the information collected from Bleenco and Neosentec, as well as from other startup pilot projects underway, is unified through the BuildApp platform from the Startup Hodeia Digital, with a visual dashboard that can be easily read and adapted to each location. Hodeia Digital Product Manager, Eder Berceruelo, explains “Our product was born thanks to Unilever and the opportunity that arose in the fifth edition of the BIND 4.0 program, where they proposed us to standardize our solution for their different locations around the world. The objective of the project is to carry out a planned deployment that involves each factory and adapts its needs to the global requirements of Unilever.”
By combining unique technologies and integrating them into one easy-to-use platform, Unilever has proven they have a highly successful collaborative environment. Alain Ibañez of Unilever affirms that “Each project is built on top of the other to integrate different technologies.” By incorporating the solutions of several startups in a single platform, the product of their collaboration is custom built, like building blocks, they can add, adjust, eliminate, customize and implement these technologies across its plants. Unilever plans to continue collecting data, further developing its tools and software with the operator in mind. “We want to simplify workers’ lives and plan to implement this platform in our plants throughout Europe and in more than 100 factories around the world ” Mikel Tejadas, from Unilever.
BIND 4.0 and Unilever share the same goals: adapt and grow technology to make work easier and to stay competitive in the industry. For this reason, the Industry 4.0 projects that Unilever has accelerated and implemented with startups such as Neosentec, Bleenco and Hodeia Digital, among others, have been an excellent example of collaboration and cooperation, with which they have been able to create collaborative environments, innovate with disruptive startups and implement smart solutions.