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Using Workflow to Improve Production

A look at how workflow software can help with error proofing of operator actions and responses, compliance with standard operating procedures, and reducing regulatory risk.

Keith Chambers, Schneider Electric
Keith Chambers, Schneider Electric

No matter how technologically advanced your processes may be, your company’s ability to produce is only as good as its workflow processes. Without good workflow procedures—and supporting technology to ensure these procedures are followed—your risk of downtime, decreased throughput and loss of revenues is greatly increased.

At the Wonderware 2015 Conference, Keith Chambers and Juan Carlos Garcia of Schneider Electric explained how coordinated workflows are an inherent part of a successful manufacturing operation. In their presentation, they showed how Wonderware's industrial workflow software, based on Skelta BPM, supports plant floor collaboration, escalation management and exception handling.

“This software, which provides fully integrated workflow definitions, forms and analytics, is used to coordinate how people can work together optimally,” said Chambers. “While InTouch (human machine interface software) collects and visualizes data, the workflow software uses this data to coordinate actions across production, maintenance, quality, warehouse/logistics, and environmental health and safety operations.”

Some of the operations examples Chambers highlighted as ideal applications for workflow software across industry include the release of new recipes or formulas to the production floor, approving the release of a new product, executing maintenance work orders, starting up or shutting down a process, managing demand/supply activities such as kanban, and responding to alarms.

The benefits of using Workflow software, according to Chambers, include error proofing of operator actions and responses, compliance with standard operating procedures for production, precise following of environmental health and safety directives, improved transparency into operator actions and reduced regulatory risk.

For a real world example of how effective good workflow procedures can be, Chambers noted the success Fujirebio Diagnostics Inc. has experienced since installing the Wonderware workflow software. Fujirebio Diagnostics is an FDA-regulated supplier of biomarkers (blood tests) for oncological purposes that help physicians, laboratory professionals, and patients better manage disease. The company’s 160,000-sq.-ft. facility produces about 75 million tests annually.

Though Fujirebio has been a leader in its field for two decades, the company achieved a major milestone in 2013 when it replaced its manual, paper-based process of periodically recording temperature readings for specific good manufacturing processes (GMP)-related equipment with a new computerized system. By automating this manual process, Fujirebio created a major opportunity to save time and paper and retain compliance by automating the acquisition of equipment data and generating electronic reports for review and approval.

The company’s project to address this was called the Electronic Initiative and the first phase involved the implementation of what it called the Equipment Monitoring System or EMS. The software used in the Equipment Monitoring System is the Wonderware System Platform with the Wonderware workflow software. Prior to implementation of the EMS, workers typically spent up to 15 hours reviewing GMP packs. After installation, workers only spend minutes on the data because they are reviewing by exception and not having to worry about missing key items. In total, the company estimates they are saving about 1100 man-hours per year by using the EMS. The software also enables Fujirebio to comply with 21 CFR 11 regulations for electronic records and electronic signatures.

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