Case Study: Revolutionizing Operations with AI at Unilever

Background

Unilever, a multinational corporation, is the mastermind behind over 400 consumer goods brands that span from food and beverages to personal hygiene. With a global footprint across 190 countries and a workforce of 170,000 employees, the conglomerate has ventured into harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) for optimizing various facets of its operations.

Key Takeaways

  • AI plays a pivotal role in Unilever’s portfolio optimization, streamlining SKU simplification for efficient shelf presence.
  • Recruitment, a significant operational facet of the conglomerate, has been revolutionized with AI-enhanced methods, drastically reducing human hours.
  • Employee onboarding and support are bolstered with tools like Unabot, which is designed to address and anticipate staff queries.

Deep Dive: Revolutionizing Operations with AI at Unilever

Approach

Unilever, a global giant in consumer goods, has embraced AI and data analytics to reshape its operational landscape. In terms of portfolio management, the company has taken a data-driven approach, leveraging advanced analytics to evaluate their wide array of products. Their goal is twofold: to stay in tune with shifting consumer demands and to ensure streamlined product availability across various sales channels, all while creating space for innovative product opportunities.

Shifting the lens to recruitment, Unilever’s partnership with Pymetrics has birthed an inventive online platform. Here, potential recruits play games tailored to measure various skills and aptitudes. Those who progress past this phase undergo video interviews, which are subsequently scrutinized by machine learning algorithms to gauge fit and potential.

Finally, to aid new employees in their onboarding journey, Unilever introduced ‘Unabot’, an advanced NLP-based bot. This bot acts as an informative assistant, helping new hires understand the intricacies of company policies, day-to-day routines, and the overarching company culture.

Implementation

Unilever has integrated advanced analytics into its operational strategy, specifically for SKU simplification. This approach aids in making insightful decisions about the continuity or discontinuation of specific products.

In the realm of recruitment, the company has implemented an AI-powered platform tailored to efficiently manage the overwhelming 1.8 million job applications they receive annually. This technological shift has resulted in a significant reduction of 70,000 person-hours, which were previously allocated for screening and assessment tasks.

On another front, Unilever introduced ‘Unabot’ in the Philippines, an interactive AI tool designed to respond to employee queries. Based on its success and learnings from initial user interactions, its deployment has been progressively extended to other regions.

Results

Unilever has adopted a more agile and data-driven approach to SKU management, ensuring an optimized product presence on shelves. This move not only streamlines the inventory but also enhances the consumer experience.

In the recruitment domain, the company has revolutionized its process to be more efficient. Every applicant now receives insightful feedback, which not only enhances the candidate experience but also ensures a more accurate selection of potential hires.

Furthermore, the introduction of ‘Unabot’ has been met with considerable acceptance among employees. In regions where Unabot has been rolled out, 36% of the workforce has engaged with it, and impressively, about 80% have found it valuable enough to continue using, underlining its effectiveness and the positive reception within the organization.

Challenges and Barriers

Striking the perfect harmony between machine capabilities and human intuition, particularly during recruitment, has been paramount for Unilever. This balance is crucial to ensure that the nuances of human behavior and expertise aren’t overshadowed by algorithmic decisions.

Additionally, to maximize the efficiency of AI tools and bots such as ‘Unabot,’ it’s imperative that they are provided with precise and pertinent data. This accuracy is paramount in yielding the desired outcomes.

Moreover, given the vastness and diversity of Unilever’s global workforce, navigating the intricate maze of employee queries presents its own set of challenges, necessitating a comprehensive understanding and approach to address each unique concern.

Future Outlook

Unilever intends to integrate its AI-driven analytics tool across all facets of its operations. Concurrently, the company is on a trajectory to incrementally launch the ‘Unabot’ initiative in each of its markets. This expansion may even leverage external data sources to furnish more holistic responses to queries.

Looking to the horizon, as the potential of AI continues to burgeon, Unilever is contemplating venturing into new domains, such as harnessing AI for assessing food freshness or delving into other avant-garde consumer-centric applications.

Conclusion

Unilever’s embrace of AI showcases its forward-thinking approach, not just for enhancing business operations but also for enriching the experience of its vast workforce. Through intelligent SKU management and efficient recruitment processes, they have positioned themselves at the forefront of the AI evolution in the corporate realm. As the world continues to lean into the era of data intelligence, Unilever is poised to set benchmarks for others to follow.

Sources:
How AI and digital help us innovate faster and smarter
Using AI to optimise our portfolio and fuel growth
The Amazing Ways How Unilever Uses AI To Recruit & Train Thousands Of Employees


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