Monday, June 26, 2023

HUL uses AI to foresee trends and employee turnover


Steve Jobs, who famously stated that "figure out what customers are going to want before they do" in a different era, revolutionized the technology market with innovative Apple products.

In today's AI world, a fast-moving consumer goods company can read your thoughts, design a product that you would want, and manufacture it without possibly requiring factory trials.

Hindustan Unilever (HUL) is utilizing its agile innovation hub to deliver products directly to consumers' homes, from spotting a trend to developing an idea. HUL claims that cutting-edge technology not only speeds up the manufacturing process but also aids in estimating the product's expected sales volume.

The agile innovation hub (AI hub) at HUL's Mumbai headquarters revolves around three axes: operations, customers, and consumers. Part of Unilever's "Reimagine HUL" journey is the hub, whose facilities are also accessible to all of the company's locations in its global markets. It is incorporated into the business process and category innovation programs of the company and is a part of the consumer ecosystem.

According to Vibhav Sanzgiri, executive director (R&D), HUL, and head, global skin cleansing R&D, "This AI-led digital transformation is an enabler. Once consumer signals are picked up at the AI hub, they are quickly evaluated for their merit in being converted into product ideas." The requirement has always existed. "We use data, technology, automation, and artificial intelligence to fast-track the product journey because the approach has evolved and we realize that in today's world, doing more of the same does not help," he added.

However, there was one issue. There is a lot of data at one's fingertips. HUL realized that to cut through the noise, one needed to make sense. In order to keep up with pertinent data, our teams sort through the noise. We have created a path that makes sense of the disconnected datasets. After that, we added an AI-based analytical layer, producing data with added value that enables teams to uncover trends," Sanzgiri stated.

He continued, "One requires the tools to do that if one must truly predict the future." We generate hundreds of concept ideas by utilizing AI and machine learning. After that, a combination of machine and human intelligence compares the company's previous innovations to those of competitors. After that, "we fine-tune it to a list of smaller innovations before taking consumer responses through rapid, always-on digital panels to understand their intent to purchase," Sanzgiri stated.

HUL is able to target the most significant opportunities before they become mainstream because of this. If we were to bring a particular product to market, we would be able to predict how many sales it would generate. "Five years from now, we can map out the opportunities of the future," he said.

"We have been successful in reducing GTM lead times by a third through our interconnected network of next-generation capabilities, such as the AI hub and the advanced manufacturing center (AMC). According to Sanzgiri, innovations sometimes enter the market in weeks or months rather than years.

Using an in-house robot-assisted library with more than 2,000 fragrances, for instance, fragrance selection time has been reduced to hours. Rapid prototyping and pack testing, on the other hand, are done with digital design and 3D printing.

Augmented reality is utilized to visualize packs on retail shelves and in consumer homes prior to beginning the process of producing these innovations. HUL collaborates with an internal group of sensory experts as well as thousands of India's most devoted customers to gauge consumer response. After the definitions are consummated, HUL's AMC, which is likewise situated at the base camp, reproduces fabricating processes at the organization's computerized manufacturing plants to increase creation without the requirement for genuine production line preliminaries quickly. It is Unilever's first soap bar-focused center and the company's only second of its kind worldwide.

The next step is developing the technology into something that can be sold. The AMC is one of our "labs of the future" for us. We transfer them to our nano and digital factories after the scale-up is complete. Sanzgiri stated, "In this manner, the "always on" process continues to feed into this virtuous cycle of innovation, scale-up, and digital operations."

It can be difficult to scale a product from a few grams in a lab beaker to a few kilograms or tons in a factory. The goal of some of these digital and automation capabilities is to find a way to completely avoid factory trials. That is done with the intention of expediting the innovation process. "Whether a product meets their requirements, delights them, and is available at the appropriate price point is what matters to customers," he stated.

HUL is now experimenting with additional products simultaneously. In the past year alone, it has introduced more than 20 new innovations and products, some of which are direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands. In addition, AI hub capabilities were utilized in the past year for multiple claims, its packs' compliance with e-commerce, and key savings projects.

Catch Daily Highlights In Your Email

* indicates required

Post Top Ad