At China Beauty Expo’s May, 2017 exhibition, one cosmetics manufacturer’s display stood out from the crowded floor of machinery. Instead of equipment, Shanghai LIRI Technologies wowed visitors with two model factories and a range of raw materials. Xu Feng, General Manager for the Cosmetics Center at Shanghai LIRI Technologies explains, “Starting this year, we will no longer showcase equipment itself. This is because disruptive innovation is taking place in cosmetics equipment itself. We provide both equipment and raw materials, and it’s this understanding of production processes, materials, and cosmetics where the breakthroughs.
Machinery Draws More Attention
At China Beauty Expo, Xu says, “Initially, machinery was a very small part of the whole exhibition. But now, there is an entire hall dedicated to machinery and there are even machinery manufacturers moving into neighboring halls. This shows the rising focus on machinery across the industry.”
Since he entered the machinery industry in 1987, Xu has seen a major transformation in factory investment. “At that time, many people didn’t focus on factories, and they didn’t want to invest in factory development. Instead, they spent lots of money on advertising and celebrity endorsements, while their factories lagged way behind.”
But since 2010, the industry has begun to boost its investment in machinery. Factories upgraded and even opening access to visitors. Tightening regulation and investment in brands drove higher quality requirements and more demands on factories. During this period, Xu Feng visited overseas factories and came back convinced that “the manufacturing process is the secret to the quality of cosmetics.”
The Future: Intelligence, Automation, and Information
Although Shanghai LIRI Technologies has focused heavily on intelligence, automation, and information in its processes, many clients simply ask for machines that can produce high quality products. Xu says, “Apart from formulations, manufacturing is critical. A bad manufacturing process cannot produce good product quality.”
Xu predicts that the machinery industry will quickly join the Internet of Things. This means that factory development, production equipment, raw material management, production processes, product tracking, and finished goods delivery will all be integrated to assure product quality. In the past, many factories paid little attention to raw materials feeding, sequence, and similar details. Now, intelligent and automated equipment follows programmed instructions and turns formulations into stable production processes. This can assure consistent product quality and a competitive advantage.
In addition, raw material management systems enable factories to preset each production step. Each formula has a specific barcode and feeds from each raw material follow specific timing and sequencing with a specific person assigned to assure compliance. This allows manufacturers to quickly and accurate trace and troubleshoot any problems with much greater accountability.
The increased use of intelligent machines means that there will be many smart cosmetics factories, using ERP systems, raw materials management systems, MES systems, and finished product warehousing and logistics management systems. Xu says, “This is good for the industry and can enhance the level of machinery and equipment.”
Consumer trends are driving product customization and product customization requires equipment customization. Xu argues, “Traditional mass production cannot guarantee the long-term development of an organization. Small batches and diversified varieties are sure to be future trends.” For the machinery industry to meet the trends, it requires a combination of different strategies. Automation, information, and intelligent technology enable modular equipment and processes. This increases factory flexibility.
Shanghai LIRI Technologies and Xu Feng continue to drive professionalism and innovation in the cosmetics industry. With the support from government and trade associations, the company has created a public service platform for Shanghai’s cosmetics industry to exchange resources and catalyze innovation.