Digitalizing Your Manufacturing Ecosystem

Though every ecosystem is unique, taking steps to understanding the ins-and-outs of your own system is amongst the first steps to take when looking to digitalize your manufacturing ecosystem.

Timothy S. Matheny, P.E., president of ECS Solutions,
Timothy S. Matheny, P.E., president of ECS Solutions,

Making digitalization work for you requires an understanding of your manufacturing ecosystem. Standards—such as ISA-95—only guide you on a journey to more deeply comprehend the workings of your unique process for manufacturing your products.

A batch manufacturing ecosystem often includes campaign management. Campaign management is not mentioned in ISA-95, which only speaks generally of “order processing.” Campaign management is an example of applying the general concepts of ISA-95 to the specific needs of a batch manufacturing process.

Campaigns are groups of full and partial batches corresponding to the number of sellable units prescribed by the “order processing” function. Campaign management starts with determining, within maximum and minimum size constraints, the minimum number of batches to manufacture to satisfy the order. Digitalizing campaign management is often a quasi-custom effort, dependent on how orders are received from the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) package.

The next step is to schedule the required batches. Production scheduling—as it is called in ISA-95—is constrained by availability of required inputs—such as raw materials, minor ingredient kits, labor, energy, and, of course, equipment. Digitalizing batch scheduling can be complex, depending on how many constraints are applied. However, efficient scheduling can add significantly to a process cell’s capacity. Like how ECS helped a sauce manufacturer optimize scheduling to reduce cleaning time, adding almost 20% to the process cell capacity without additional equipment or labor cost.

When it is time to run a batch, the appropriate control recipe is created and delivered to the sequencing engine. The sequencing engine goes through the ordered recipe steps, commanding the control system to perform appropriate actions. As it works, the control system creates data, documenting what happens.

Quantities of both event-based and time-series data are valuable benefits in digitalizing your ecosystem. Data is used for many purposes—such as quality control, meeting regulatory requirements, supporting raw and finished goods inventory management, and driving process improvements.

The constraints of a blog article allow only a cursory overview of a typical batch manufacturing ecosystem. Standards are generalizations. Every ecosystem is uniquely complex. Comprehending your ecosystem is the first step to realizing the benefits of digitalization. Let’s go!

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

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