The lockdowns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic were never intended to be permanent. From the moment the first stay-at-home orders were put in place, market leaders like Renault began on smart manufacturing technology to prepare for the restart that would follow. While the exact end of the shutdown could not be known, one thing was very clear: the work environment post-pandemic would look very different to the work environment just a few months prior.
For Renault, the number one priority for any restart was the health and security of its workforce. In particular, facemasks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus between workers were deemed essential personal protective equipment (PPE), yet they were difficult or even sometimes impossible to source. Global production shortages combined with delivery uncertainties and long wait times complicated restart planning efforts.
Having locked down more than 100 sites representing the majority of Renault’s production, logistics, engineering and concessions in Europe, Asia, Russia, and the Americas, the company prepared to reopen those same sites. To do so, they would have to come up with a plan that would not only take into account the provision of PPE but also all of the logistical interdependence between plants and hundreds of local constraints
While the problem of securing sufficient stocks of PPE to restart the plants was clear, Renault faced additional constraints to their restart plans:
For one, while securing PPE to restart a site was essential, it was equally important that once a site was reopened it should not shut down again due to a lack of PPE. As a result, this made the capacity to deliver masks to sites a key consideration in determining the order in which sites would reopen.
The cost of delivering the PPE to workers was not a key constraint for a company that put the health of their teams first, but nonetheless it would be best if delivery costs could be optimized. For example, Renault would prefer to avoid weekly deliveries of 10,000 masks and to instead deliver 40,000 masks monthly; this cuts down on delivery costs while diminishing the environmental costs associated with transport, too.
Further complicating matters, Renault’s sites were located in five different global regions, and those regions demanded one of two types of mask depending on the type of work completed on the site and the extent of the virus in that region. This diversity contributed to important variations in unit costs, delivery delays, and local logistics.
Finally, the provision of PPE and masks to workers had to be made with respect to the gradual ramp up of each individual site. Some sites would restart at 20% capacity, progressing to 40% the following week and then building back up to full production over the course of a month. Others would follow a different progression – either slower or faster to return to pre-lockdown production – further complicating efforts to develop a global restart plan.
To aid their planners in overcoming these challenges, Renault partnered with Cosmo Tech, a software vendor of Simulation Digital Twins specialized in addressing complex strategic and operational industrial decisions with holistic (360°) simulation.
Within three weeks, Cosmo Tech modeled Renault’s operations and integrated all of the capacities and constraints of its hundreds of sites into a single digital twin. Renault planners could then used smart manufacturing technology to easily simulate different scenarios in order to identify the optimal operational strategy to ensure a smooth and safe restart worldwide.
Renault’s teams could quickly and easily modify their scenarios to adapt to shifts in the supply of masks and other PPE or the speed of a ramp-up in one, five, or dozens of their sites. This flexibility enabled Renault to optimize their restart plan even in the face of a rapidly changing business reality so as to ensure a safe, secure, and sustainable return to work.
As Renault’s Chief Transformation Officer Antoine Doucerain said:
“The opportunity to test in just a few seconds thousands of different scenarios and compare the impact of each and every decision related to the organization and delivery of masks and PPE is game-changing. We have the capacity to filter our simulation by region and to identify the key dates for delivery where either risk or impact is greatest, and then optimize our PPE logistics to achieve the best outcomes.
Over 3 months, the distribution of 20-25 million masks can thus be optimized. This project allowed us to succeed in a safe and secure restart for Renault operations at hundreds of sites worldwide.”
Renault and Cosmo Tech began working on the challenges of PPE and mask provisioning and distribution in the very first days of the lockdown. Thanks to Cosmo Tech’s smart manufacturing software, Renault was able to take concrete steps to accelerate their restart and build resilience and robustness into their post-lockdown plans. What’s more, Renault is considering ways to build on this success and apply a similar approach for prioritizing distribution and managing shortages in other parts of the company.
This collaboration was just the latest in a partnership that has so-far spanned three years and multiple projects. Cosmo Tech’s digital twins have helped Renault augment their agility, lift their productivity, improve operational efficiency, and produce more in spite of dynamic demand curves.
As Renault’s Chief Transformation Officer Antoine Doucerain explained:
Our partnership with Cosmo Tech is a textbook example of open innovation delivering value to large enterprise and smaller technology firms. Cosmo Tech brings agility and cutting-edge modeling and simulation technology that Renault can draw on as we continue our digital transformation. It’s a true win-win partnership and our continuing and deepening engagement is proof of this.
A shared vision of the necessity of digital transformation even in complex and challenging times has seen Cosmo Tech and Renault expand their collaboration. From pilot projects in a handful of plants to the provisioning and delivery of masks on five continents, and soon to asset obsolescence management efforts across the organization, this partnership will only continue to grow.