Total Process Automation—The Profit Process

Putting more focus on the process of making money rather than just making products will help your organization achieve higher quality, higher performance and higher profits.

Tim Matheny, ECS Solutions
Tim Matheny, ECS Solutions

The best control system integrators do not only automate the production equipment, they help to automate the entire manufacturing process. The structured, standards-based approach that capable control system engineers take to applying today’s agile tools delivers incredible organizational improvement.

The middle zone of manufacturing operations management, existing between an organization’s business systems and the manufacturing control systems, harbors tremendous opportunity. The transactional approach of business solutions, such as SAP, is very different than the high-speed, continuous, real-time approach of control systems. There is a similar difference in the approach practitioners of one discipline might take compared with the other. Though both are necessary for a capable solution, organizations have more to gain from the control realm than from the business realm.

In one recent situation, a client implemented overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) on several packaging lines, realizing a 12.5 percent increase in schedule rate of one critical line. They have logged more than 60,000 operator quality checks at a rate of nearly 15,000 per month and are continuing to see a positive trend in OEE. This in spite of key turnovers in packaging production management.

The ISA-95 model was closely followed both by the client-selected software package and by the implementation team. Each station, or activity, within each line was defined as a production cell. Data and additional programming within the control system realm was used to make the interface between the control and manufacturing management systems and the operator as efficient as possible. A combination of displays, reports and alerts guide operators and operations management to resolve issues before incurring downtime.

In another recent situation, a client exceeded expectations for a new facility by implementing access to production information across all departments. The client, a family-owned business, considers itself to have a very collaborative culture. Presenting the same data to key managers throughout the company has improved decision-making to meet their common organizational goals. With everyone seeing the same information and analyzing the same data, communication, productivity and efficiency have improved significantly.Supervisors are helping R&D with new formulations, material managers are helping schedulers understand orders and inventory, and everyone is helping solve problems. In just a few months of production, the client has created, controlled and tracked hundreds of batches and dozens of new products while quietly collecting almost 1 billion rows of data to unite them.

In each of these examples, the implementation teams focused on the overall process—the process of creating profits—not only on the process of creating and packaging the goods the client sells. The implementation team goals were aligned with organizational goals. The result, in both cases, was an organization achieving higher quality, higher performance and higher profits.

Jump-start your organization with a fresh focus on your total process. If your control system integrator isn’t talking to you about making more money, perhaps you should find one who can. The Industrial Automation Exchange is a great place to start. Or perhaps you can help your integrator help you achieve higher organizational success by helping them to see their work on control systems within the context of your organizational goals.

Tim Matheny is president of ECS Solutions Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). He is also the author of a paper on the subject of model-based control, presented to the ISA Food and Pharmaceutical Industry Division in 2014. To obtain a copy of Tim’s paper, or for more information about ECS Solutions, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.


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