Unilever TPM

For more than two years, Unilever has been implementing total productivemaintenance (TPM) but found manually collected data was hard to utilize.

Implementing the Epicor Informance EMI system enables the manufacturingplants to target and prioritize opportunities for productivity improvement. EpicorInformance has been rolled out division-wide in more than 15 plants to date.

Using the Epicor Informance information into aCapDO (Check, Analyze, Plan, Do) process helpsplant personnel to focus on priority issues thatdeliver bottom line results.

Terry Herber
Manager of Industrial Engineering | Unilever

Productivity Challenges

Unilever relies on overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) to judge the success ofits TPM initiative. According to Tony Lippert, plant manager at the Elgin, Illinoisfacility where Epicor Informance was initially piloted, OEE is by far the bestindication of line performance. The corporate standard is to measure OEE atthe filler. At the plant-level, operational effectiveness (OE) and cost per ton areadditional key metrics.

Data collection, especially related to minor stops, posed a challenge for theplants to effectively implement TPM. The manual data collection logs were seenas cumbersome.

Terry Herber, manager of industrial engineering, who participates on a team withcorporate oversight of the TPM program, says that even when the company's"patchwork of data collection techniques" produced accurate data, the reportswere not user friendly to the shop floor.


Epicor Informance allows quick and easy identification of factorscausing manufacturing downtime. In addition, the system'senterprise reporting application allows manufacturers tosimultaneously monitor and analyze data from multiple lines andmultiple stations in real-time. The system uses a unique softwareand hardware combination allowing the user to begin pulling realtimedata off the line in a matter of hours. Companies utilizing thisinformation can make comparisons across plants and lines to aid intheir continuous improvement (CI) efforts.

After a site visit by Epicor, the system's plant reporting applicationswere used to automatically populate the plant's internal database.Impressed, word spread about Epicor Informance through thecompany's CI meetings and a corporate pilot effort began.

Unilever has varying plant sizes, ages, and machine vintages, andEpicor Informance accommodates them all to address the corporatetenet of "one way, same way." The target facility was tasked withpushing the limits of the system to evaluate it for other plants. As aresult, Unilever decided to install the Epicor Informance solution inall of the TPM plant locations.


The pilot plant, located in Elgin, Illinois, produces margarine andimplemented a networking, real-time plant reporting system. Theinitial implementation was an easy process, lasting two-and-ahalfhours for three machines. Three soft lines (that fill tubs) weremonitored with two units per line, six units total. One unit is used tocapture general downtime and measure OEE at the filler. A secondunit is placed at the case packer as it has historically been thebiggest contributor of downtime.

The plant learned that the vast majority of downtime was instancesof five minutes or less. This information provides specific supportfor TPM including consistent reporting format organized to helpmanagers drive training and improvement in the pillars of TPM, andability for plant management to track OEE in a consistent manner.

Impact on the Company

The relationship between Unilever and Epicor has progressedfrom product testing to a full-scale implementation across thedivision. Unilever experienced clearer focus as a result of usingEpicor Informance.

As Herber explains, "No one can blame the system for lack ofproductivity or challenge the facts now that they have the systemup and running in their plant."

For the plant, Lippert says, "Epicor Informance has given us a clearperspective on where the opportunities are for improvement anda way of prioritizing them." Lippert and his team make furtheruse of this information by effectively communicating it to all levelsof the plant. Because he uses the data on a daily basis, and talksabout it frequently, operators can clearly see the role they play inproductivity and how the results are demonstrated in the data thatEpicor Informance collects.

The integration of Epicor Informance into existing systems alsomade the implementation of TPM easier by focusing Unilever's CIeffort and allowing for fact-based decision making. According toHerber, "Epicor Informance helps us stratify the data." He explainsthat everyone has his or her part to play in the TPM initiative andEpicor Informance is used to empower and enforce accountability inthis respect.

In terms of return on investment, Herber explains that theycalculate that based on purchase price, installation cost, andongoing maintenance, versus the "ability to extract ongoing,value-added reports." He sees the analytical and reportingcapability of Epicor Informance as key to their investment. "EpicorInformance gives short-term bang for the buck with room togrow." Furthermore, he says each percent improvement in OEE willrepresent millions in savings.

"Epicor Informance has given us a clear perspective onwhere the opportunities are for improvementand a way of prioritizing them."
Tony Lippert, Plant Manager


Herber sees Epicor Informance as a system for "shop floorindividuals to get information they need to empower change." And,by delivering "reports to directly support our TPM initiative," EpicorInformance fits the environment and speaks the TPM language.Thus, for Unilever, he considers the system a "simple and easy todeploy way of approaching the TPM data collection problem. Justbolt it on, turn it on and go."

About Epicor

Epicor Software Corporation is a global leader delivering businesssoftware solutions to the manufacturing, distribution, retail,and service industries. With more than 45 years of experience,Epicor has more than 20,000 customers in over 150 countries.Epicor solutions enable companies to drive increased efficiencyand improve profitability. With a history of innovation, industryexpertise, and passion for excellence, Epicor inspires customers tobuild lasting competitive advantage. Epicor provides the single pointof accountability that local, regional, and global businesses demand.For more information, visit www.epicor.com.

Company Facts

  • Location: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
  • Industry: Global Manufacturer of Food, Home, and Personal Care Products
  • Web site: www.unilever.com


  • Utilizing manually collected data to support their Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) initiative
  • Collecting accurate data on minor stops
  • Compiling usable reports for data analysis


  • Epicor Informance enterprise manufacturing intelligence (EMI) system


  • Ability to collect and compare data from all machines and all plants 'one way, same way'
  • Clear view of opportunities for manufacturing improvements
  • Ability to leverage manufacturing information gathered into a focused improvement process (CapDO - Check, Analyze, Plan, Do)
  • Consistent reporting format to help drive training & improvement in the pillars of TPM
  • Ability to track overall equipment effectiveness (OEE)

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