Syngenta is one of the world’s leading agricultural science and technology providers with a focus on seeds and pesticides. At their plant in Seneffe, Belgium, they wanted to digitalise part of their production as a first step in their digital transformation (DX) journey. Together with our systems provider Yokogawa, Coretecs guided Syngenta towards an Industry 4.0-ready smart factory. In this case, we’ll take you through that journey.
Syngenta and Yokogawa
The Syngenta plant in Seneffe specialises in manufacturing, among others, formulation insecticides (FO-INS). This is one of the most complex production processes at Syngenta Belgium. These processes are powered by a distributed control system (DCS) and a data historian, provided by Yokogawa Electric, a Japanese multinational that focuses on electrical engineering and software.
When Syngenta wanted to start their digital transformation journey, they naturally looked at Yokogawa first. Because of our extensive Yokogawa knowledge and experience and our specialisation in digital transformation for the manufacturing industry, Yokogawa asked Coretecs to help out.
We assisted Yokogawa with the planning, execution and support of Syngenta’s first DX project: the digitalisation of the Tier 1 production follow-up of formulation insecticides. This meant replacing the old process, which was paper-based and used Excel-like tools, with a fully digitalised platform based on low-code technologies.
At the start of our projects, we normally provide strategy advisory services to help our customers to determine in which direction they want to take their company. Many organisations fail to kickstart their DX journey correctly because they focus on technology. At Coretecs, we are convinced that the processes, people, and technology should be equally important when devising a strategy for Industry 4.0 transformation. In our experience, it’s also essential to start with something that matters instead of a minor process, so the project will have tangible results.
Syngenta clearly has the same vision on digital transformation; they had already thought out a DX strategy where everything was interconnected. They considered this an elaborate test case spearheaded by Syngenta’s Operational Excellence (OpEx) centre. Since they chose the FO-INS production process for this initial project, they clearly weren’t scared of starting small either. Together with the OpEx team and Yokogawa, we further fine-tuned their roadmap and came up with a feasible project approach.
“We are thrilled with the way Coretecs handled this project together with our technical partner Yokogawa. They take every little comment into account and communicate proactively, which is a tremendous help in the ongoing UAT sessions. Coretecs has proven itself a capable partner with a holistic view by considering our entire digital transformation journey. We’re excited to see how they will continue to help us and Yokogawa as this project and the rest of our journey progresses.”
– Quentin Delvigne, Transformation & OpEx Engineer at Syngenta
When we started the planning phase, we aligned on having a customised approach, allowing us to adapt quickly to the requirements and project’s features. For example, we omitted and rescheduled certain meetings with operators based on Syngenta’s ongoing production process, which obviously took priority. We also had to coordinate our Agile project with other ongoing Yokogawa projects at Seneffe using a waterfall approach and interfering with this project.
While implementing the Agile way of working required a bit of extra time, we saved a lot of planning efforts on the data analysis aspect of the project. Connectivity and data are the building blocks of a digital transformation, and making sure that your data is accurate and available is of the utmost importance. In this case, we could build on the data provided by ExaQuantum, Yokogawa’s data historian. We leveraged that on-premise data in our connected solution using a secure gateway connection. This was a major breakthrough, and it will help us tremendously in the following digital projects for Syngenta.
Once we had determined the project approach, planned the content of the sprints, and analysed the data, we implemented the actual solution. We set up a fully connected and digitalised platform that used Yokogawa’s on-premise data and infrastructure to visualize a new digital user experience that monitors the production of FO-INS. To achieve this, we needed something that neither Yokogawa nor Syngenta had worked with already: low-code technologies.
Low-code technologies enable applications to be developed, modified and understood by people with limited programming knowledge. This drastically lowers the time from idea to realisation, and makes a significant difference when explaining solutions. Instead of complex blocks of code, low-code technologies visualize their applications intuitively. At Coretecs, we are especially fond of the Microsoft Power Platform, most commonly known for its Power BI data visualisation tools. We believe that this platform will play a significant role in the manufacturing sector in the coming years because of its advanced technical capabilities compared to competitors. Microsoft is also investing large amounts in the manufacturing industry this fiscal year, which bodes well for its future.
During implementation, we knew that we would have to aim for an early win. These let us gather further buy-in from the business, and replicate our successes in other production areas. Low-code technologies let you achieve those early wins thanks to their comprehensive yet thorough visualisations. They can also easily be deployed and adapted for slightly different environments, which sparked some ideas at Syngenta for following projects.
“Coretecs proved themselves experts at translating Syngenta’s ideas into a working solution, both on a business and technical level. They helped with choosing system architectures, developing the application and its interactions with our pre-existing systems, discussing business improvements, and introducing an Agile way of working with achievable sprints. In a relatively short time, they helped to realise tangible benefits for Syngenta.”
– Michel Lamine, Account Manager at Yokogawa
Of course, no project would be complete without solid support. We also offer managed services, so our customers can rest assured that their brand-new system keeps up and running after delivery. This is another aspect where it’s important not to focus on just the technology too much. We are currently in the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) phase of the FO-INS project, and so far, the feedback from the operators is very promising. We expect a significant improvement in transparency and reduction in time to impact the Operating Equipment Efficiency (OEE).
During UAT meetings, we keep stressing the importance of feedback. Building bridges between OT and IT is all about making the lives of the operators easier while improving the business flow, but you simply cannot build these systems without feedback from the people who will use them every day. As we continue supporting Syngenta in their digital transformation projects, this feedback will determine the direction we’ll head in.
We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Yokogawa and Syngenta in this project and beyond. We believe that the Operational Excellence team at Syngenta has an excellent vision of how to make Seneffe stand out as a smart factory that can serve as a shining example for their other facilities around the world. We are also grateful for Yokogawa’s invitation to collaborate, and we are convinced that their co-innovation mindset will facilitate the upcoming teamwork between our companies. The future is bright, and we are excited to see which great results we will achieve together!
Are you in need of an expert for your digital transformation in the manufacturing industry? Looking for a guiding hand that connects the OT and IT parts of your company, while keeping the human aspect in mind? Coretecs would love to help! Contact us, and we’ll discuss the possibilities together.