How L'Oreal Is Bringing Blockchain & Personalization To Its Manufacturing
Digital transformation and Industry 4.0 have been an ongoing process for some time now, with brands the world over at various stages of concept and implementation.
Industry 4.0 covers a whole suite of technology, including robotics, Internet of Things, data, blockchain, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and more. All these technologies have a place in the modern industrial framework, and can all be deployed to streamline processes and make manufacturing more productive and efficient than ever before.
While some companies are taking a cautious approach to Industry 4.0 implementation, cosmetics heavyweight L'Oreal is going all in with a range of technological innovations.
The Paris-based cosmetics brand's digital transformation is leading it to partner with some big names of the tech world - names such as IBM, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple. However, keen not to ignore some of the new faces in the industry, it has also been working with a host of smaller tech startups as well.
"In digital manufacturing, it's important to source the technologies where they are starting," said Chief Digital Officer for Operations at L'Oreal, Stephane Lannuzel. "That's what I'm telling the team: When you see this new technology, make sure you open your eyes and are resilient. Try to understand them before you just say, it's not for us. For example, in 3D printing, five to seven years ago, people said, it wasn't for L'Oreal because we produce seven billion products, and with 3D printing it takes an hour and a half to do one. Now we have 3D printers in our development offices here in Paris where, for every single launch, we make prototypes."
Other innovations being introduced directly into the L'Oreal manufacturing process include sensors, magnetic conveyors, and laser measuring.
These technologies are backed up by powerful artificial intelligence software which is enabling L'Oreal to manufacture 30 different bottles of perfume on the same production line, with the technology able to switch automatically within 15 minutes, depending on the exact product in front of it. While 15 minutes may seem like quite a long time to the layperson, consider the fact that, under previous generations of technology, switching format took more than four hours.
Blockchain and Personalization
One of the more exciting and yet most opaque elements of Industry 4.0 technology is blockchain. Known as the tech which underpins the cryptocurrency phenomenon, blockchain enables peer-to-peer exchanges of data without a centralized authority (such as a bank).
The transparent and secure nature of blockchain technology is now making it an attractive prospect for industries the world over.
"Connected products are a pillar of our digital transformation," said Lannuzel. "It goes through RFID or NFC technology. And now even using blockchain. These technologies are there to make the link between the physical world, which is the product, and the digital world, which is the data and your smartphone. Regarding blockchain, we are testing two use cases around transparency (concerning) the products, from raw materials to the consumers, and all the logistics information. When you ship products from one country to another, you need to provide a lot of certificates, and putting them in the blockchain is very promising."
Personalized products are also made possible thanks to the more rapid and flexible manufacturing capabilities of Industry 4.0.
Le Teint Particulier, under the brand Lancome, is a product which allows customers to have their skin tone measured at the point of sale. Then, a bespoke concealer is manufactured for them right there in the store. The product can be made with a staggering variety of 8,000 shades, 3 coverage levels, and 3 hydration levels in any combination, and the packaging even comes with information including the customer's name and a reference ID for quick and easy reordering.
"This has been enabled by smart manufacturing and all the new technologies because it uses AI to develop an algorithm that goes from one skin color measurement to a formula that must choose between 22,000 combinations," said Lannuzel. "It's also a challenge in terms of operations because you need to be able to produce a cosmetic product in a point of sale where the environment is not quite the same as a factory. That's what I call extreme agility where you do one product which is personalized to one consumer. That's part of smart manufacturing."
Industry 4.0 is here and changing the manufacturing game for everyone. With huge names such as L'Oreal producing so many exciting innovations, it looks like the future of manufacturing will be bright.
You can hear L'Oreal's Senior Vice President of Operations and Head of Manufacturing and Engineering, Carlos Ruiz Rabago, speak at Connected Manufacturing Forum 2019, taking place in July at the Hilton Austin, Austin, TX.
Download the agenda today for more information and insights.