Unilever – production line optimization

Production Line Simulation


Unilever is the leading manufacturer of fast moving consumer goods; mainly in food, personal care and cleaning products. Unilever is constantly looking for improving and optimizing production lines. As a tool of choice FlexSim simulation is used to mode, analyze and optimize production lines.


For one such project the objective was to improve the output of a ‘filling line’. The line produces multiple products in different bottle sizes and shapes. The bottles are then boxed and palletized for shipment. The line capacity was too low and should be increased to fulfill increased demand for the product. The local plant manager already put in an investment plan to improve the line. As he was not certain that the investment would bring the needed optimization, it was decided to perform a simulation study first, in order to determine the best possible investment to meet the capacity needed.


As the Unilever engineers were understaffed to take this project on board, Talumis was hired to execute the simulation project. After analyses of the process and the statistical analysis of the failure rates of the line components, a detailed FlexSim model was constructed to provide the basis of the improvement study.


The analyses of the model provided a clear insight the bottlenecks. It turned out that the bottleneck shifted depending on the combination of product and package type. Based on the results of the simulations, the optimum buffers sizes were determined. The buffer size needed proved to be much less than initially proposed. This resulted in a EUR 100k less investment needed than originally planned.
Furthermore a small investment was made to reduce the failure patterns on one machine in the line. All in all the output of the line improved by more than 20%.