MES/MOM Delivers Power to the People

June 1, 2011
Food and beverage is just one industry in which users are adopting pre-integrated manufacturing operations software solutions that are delivering actionable information in weeks and ROI in two years or less.

No matter what your industry or company size, now may be the time to upgrade—or install—the manufacturing operations management software your company needs. Manufacturers have operational systems in place, whether manual, electronic or some mix, but continuous improvement initiatives are pushing change. So users are moving to commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS), pre-integrated solutions that are delivering actionable information in weeks and ROI in two years or less. The result is operations people feeling empowered by measurable progress, and engineers becoming heroes by delivering on the strategic goals set by their executives.

“By giving [operators] more accurate data, allowing them to work on real problems and giving them real solutions, they now watch those [status] boards. If they know they are close to a record, you should just see them go after it,” says Don Enstrom, senior director of manufacturing and engineering service for private-label beverage producer Cliffstar. “The last production record in our first plant was set in 2009. Since the system went live, they have broken that record twice, so they continue to set the bar higher for themselves. And they continue to use the [software] tools to do it.”

Despite a reputation for requiring too much time and effort for too little plant floor benefit, manufacturing execution system (MES) and management operations management (MOM) software have improved since the term “MES” was coined in the early 1990s. Two decades of refinement to production system models and standards has created industry-specific production knowledge and faster implementation tools and techniques. The result is that although there may be hundreds of COTS software packages and MES experts to choose from, many are likely to really be experts in your industry’s needs and processes.

“Most customers already have systems that are doing something—even if it’s macro level planning and scheduling with Microsoft Excel. There’s a lot of work going on with spreadsheets,” says Dan O’Brien, solution manager, manufacturing execution systems, for automation vendor Honeywell Process Solutions in Phoenix. “I was at our user advisory board meeting and a paper manufacturer said, ‘One of the biggest challenges I’m trying to deal with is the 1,200 – 1,300 spreadsheets that we’re using to do various things.’ An integrated oil manufacturer said, ‘Well, that’s pretty tough, but we’ve got 31,000 spreadsheets.’ ”

In pulp and paper, as in other industries, the purpose of operational systems is simple: “You have time scheduling and also physical scheduling. You’re trying to waste the least stuff,” says O’Brien. “If you’ve got more than one facility, you’re looking across your transportation costs. If another mill can make the same grade of paper and be closer to the delivery destination, you’re going to want to make it there. All of the above is the fundamental blocking and tackling that an MES does.”

Giant data factories

“Those systems exist, and they are giant data factories,” continues O’Brien. Every roll of paper has customer IDs, quality data, and the like. At the same time, MES/MOM systems are consumers of data from enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems like SAP, and from process system scanners, control systems and event logs. What’s primarily happening now is an emphasis on bringing all that information together, consolidating the data to make better decisions.

Cliffstar’s Don Enstrom retired from Kraft North America and came to the private-label beverage maker in western New York to “capitalize on lessons learned and be able to do it over again.” Speaking at this year’s Packaging Automation Forum, an event co-hosted by Automation World, Enstrom described how Cliffstar’s engineering department used first manual than electronic MESs to bring shopfloor data together and empower juice bottling plant operators to make better decisions. 

ENTERPRISE VIEW: Read how Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) is incorporated into enterprise-level Business Process Management strategies.

As a $700 million a year privately held company that produces about 60 percent of all of the private label beverages (juice, soda and purified water) in North America, Cliffstar was experiencing juice-plant losses that management wanted addressed and engineering identified to go after within operations.

“The direct losses were predominantly in process variance on our raw materials,” says Enstrom. Fruit juice processing has a very high cost component because a lot of the concentrates—flavorings like pomegranate—are imported and therefore very expensive additives. “We had raw material direct losses of 1 percent plus process-variance-driven raw losses of 4 percent, which [amounted to] 50 percent of the dollar opportunity for improvement,” Enstrom says.

A reduction in labor losses, through better utilization of direct labor through higher throughputs, was estimated to be able to recover 33 percent of the total. The remaining 17 percent was expected to come from eliminating losses built into the system due to changeovers.

Changeover losses are significant, says Enstrom, because “private label production is kind of a scary world. There are 3,000 SKUs [stock keeping units] represented by that $700 million in sales. Our record is 42 changeovers on one line in one day, and a lot of those changes do have material losses. It is a very, very dynamic manufacturing operation.” 

Plan for improvement

Reducing losses and improving throughput by empowering the people who do the work are what MES/MOM systems do best. So when Cliffstar engineers put together a strategic plan for continuous improvement that would maximize return on investment (ROI), they started with the people. They organized teams, identified champions and added staff. They also put in a maintenance improvement plan to address skills, preventive maintenance (PM) programs and autonomous maintenance.  And, “we went after all of that with manual systems [first],” says Enstrom.

“We put [the manual system] into place recognizing the fact that people change much slower than systems do. Our strategy was to be able to show what [an MES] could deliver incrementally over and above the best manual efforts of the people,” he says.

The electronic MES was a low-cost single-line pilot program for automated performance measurement. The $50,000 budget was “to do things like develop screens, develop reports, see what the acceptance was, see what kind of things people responded to and what seemed to light up management’s eyes, because that’s where we are headed for funding” for the full solution, says Enstrom. 

Proficy software from automation vendor GE Intelligent Platforms, Charlottesville, Va. was the commercial MES solution Cliffstar chose after looking at half a dozen different systems. The criteria, says Enstrom:

• A system that was easy to expand into other areas where the losses were, lot traceability.
• The ability to scale it up and spread it across the company, including allowing Cliffstar to “pay as you go” and do incremental investments.
• Instantaneous reporting easily available via the Web, so you didn’t have to have client software on everybody’s PC.

“We wanted [reporting] to be immediate,” says Enstrom. “One of the things that we wanted to get away from was having problems still exist at shift turnover. We wanted people to resolve problems on their shift, report their successes and report minimal losses, as opposed to the various excuses and finger-pointing that can happen in shift changeover meetings.”

Info for the plant floor

One facet of immediate reporting is real-time information from the MES displayed out in the plant. Cliffstar developed a “reporting board” for each juice line that shows a green, yellow or red bar to tell operators what their budget line is—what is breakeven financially for them based upon the engineering standards and SAP, explains Enstrom.

Those boards also give the plant manager the ability to set a second goal. For example, the plant manager can set a stretch goal and not allow systems to go to green just because operations are ahead of budget. That real-time feedback from an MES system is what allows additional production gains, Enstrom says.

Enstrom says that, when they first started, Cliffstar was “very typical” in that the SAP systems sat up in the corporate office to handle the lean manufacturing initiative and production schedules. Such strategic activities were done at the corporate level on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. While there were some linkages to the plant floor, he says, “for the most part, down on the floor where the PLCs were operating was a lot of spreadsheets and paper and notes.” 

According to Enstrom, the goal of bringing GE Proficy in to replace all of those manual systems—especially for asset performance management, maintenance activities or statistical process control (SPC) quality data in the form of instant feedback—“was the real-time enterprise under Mason’s definition of getting information directly on the plant floor to people, and then [enabling] lean manufacturing. We wanted all of those initiatives to be running within the plant,” for the data to be available for the operators to shorten time frames and minimize losses.

ROI for asset management

Enstrom spoke when Cliffstar was about 18 months into the project with the first three phases completed. “By the first full site implementation, which was a completion of the second phase one year into it, we had seen an upturn,” he recalls. “Of the total opportunity, we picked up 3 percentage points in the first five months into it. The pilot revved at a 157 percent return and, as we have continued to roll it out, we have continued to see those same levels of return.”

With that success, Enstrom got support to move forward and expand the pilot to additional lines. Going forward, Enstrom says Cliffstar also would like to get more real time data into the corporate scheduling systems in SAP. If improvements on the line make production jump from 85 to 90 percent utilization, for example, “we want them to respond to that and schedule accordingly,” he says. “We want them to stop over-scheduling. They want us to do what we say we will do, which is not an unreasonable request.”

Giving operators accurate data has gone a long way toward empowering them to meet their goals and then some. “We have created the demand we wanted, where we do have a pull system,” says Enstrom. “People are demanding to get [the data] and now we are just trying to get the foundational elements really solidified before rolling it out further.” 

How software vendors help

Often it’s useful for a user to gain from its supplier’s expertise. Tom Troy, director of manufacturing execution systems for automation software vendor Invensys Operations Management, Plano, Texas, explains it this way: “A typical multi-site or multinational company became that way through acquisition. Some [acquired plants are] highly automated and some are very manual in their approach. One of the things we do very well is we abstract people from that very broad variance from an automation perspective. Rockwell PLCs or Siemens PLCs, or variations in vendor technology—you need an MES vendor whose technology can normalize that automation and vendor variation.”

While Cliffstar found it important to change its manual procedures before it implemented its MES, “SAP doesn’t care if that pallet count came from a sensor or a guy standing at the back of the warehouse,” says Troy, and the MES application isn’t concerned about the line or plant variance. Good MES systems in the middle make it easier for users to drive standards out to the plant.

An openness to a variety of systems is essential to an MES system. O’Brien says one of the misperceptions of Honeywell’s MES is that it only works with Honeywell hardware. “But we’ve been very open in MES software for a long time,” he says, and when Honeywell bought Matrikon about a year ago, it gained the additional openness of Matrikon’s OPC connectivity.

Like other automation hardware vendors who offer MES, Honeywell also works with partners to pre-integrate MES and related applications.

“Honeywell is working with SAP to create ‘composite applications’ addressing areas where MES and ERP overlap.  And we’ve been able to sit down sit with SAP and IBM and build some templates: If you want an ERP-centric approach, this is what it would look like. If we’re coming from MES, this is what the system would look like,” O’Brien explains. 

Such software vendor efforts reduce complexity, which helps with quicker implementations. They also help users upgrade or adapt more easily to keep up with new technology because users can’t “put in something and expect to keep it for 10 years anymore,” O’Brien says. 

Automation vendor Siemens Industry, with U.S. base in Alpharetta, Ga., helps its customers straddle the divide between plant floor and business systems in a couple of ways. One is by providing Simatic IT, a suite of MES software. Another is by partnering with independent solution providers to deliver customer support.

DSM Dyneema is a maker of specialty fibers in everything from bulletproof vests to mooring lines for off-shore oil platforms. To support its production centers in Heerlen (The Netherlands), Greenville, N.C. (USA) and Flaach (Switzerland), DSM Dyneema is implementing MES to connect the manufacturing process to the supply chain management system to improve response to demand, manufacturing efficiency and quality.  And they are not doing it alone.

According to Hein Willems and Bas Jansen of DSM Dyneema, there is “complex interfacing with the physical control layer and the business management layer where the real-time world of production has to interface with DSM’s information technology (IT) systems.”

The MES+ project, as it is called, requires the three partners in the project be aligned: DBIS (the DSM information technology department); Siemens, who is supplying the Simatic IT software that is at the heart of the MES+ system; and ATS International B.V., which provides continuous remote and on-site support for manufacturing IT systems.

Willems and Jansen say ATS was chosen as a partner for maintenance and support because of their present knowledge in Simatic IT, and continuity of service delivery in different time zones, among other criteria.

Because multi-site plants can be highly variable, what MES users can most benefit from is the elimination of complexity. “Ultimately what they are looking for is for their manufacturing processes to be operating as a single system,” says Keith Chambers, business manager for MES software for Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee. “In a lot of systems we deploy, we embed MES screens into HMI [human-machine interface] screens. We see controllers getting smarter and providing better integration. Controllers all provide structured data storage now, and advances there are very significant and very complementary.”

Chambers contends “big MES players tend to be automation players because there is tremendous leverage when historians, preventive maintenance systems and controllers are all aligned together.”

Those 50 or 60 applications on the typical plant floor—some cobbled together, others stretched to their limits—are starting to merge. Boundaries of individual MES applications are blurring, and some systems are going beyond machines to plan, schedule and track people. Soon “human factor” aspects of MES software will focus on the next generation of organizational excellence: workflow.

Invensys’s Troy says one large food processor that Invensys is working with is seeing so many required product changes neither the people nor the plant can keep up. “They’re making product, but they’re making it with the wrong specs. What’s causing them to struggle? There are people who are filling in ‘the white spaces’ in the process. Five applications need the data, but there are white spaces between them where people have to link it up. Workflow and the human factor, therefore, become significant. I’ve presented a lot of new stuff in MES, and this is the area where I’ve seen the most excitement in a long time: Workflow, business, making people and processes more effective”—which, really, is what MES/MOM systems have always been about.  

Subscribe to Automation World's RSS Feeds for Feature Articles

Sponsored Recommendations

Measurement instrumentation for improving hydrogen storage and transport

Hydrogen provides a decarbonization opportunity. Learn more about maximizing the potential of hydrogen.

Learn About: Micro Motion™ 4700 Config I/O Coriolis Transmitter

An Advanced Transmitter that Expands Connectivity

Learn about: Micro Motion G-Series Coriolis Flow and Density Meters

The Micro Motion G-Series is designed to help you access the benefits of Coriolis technology even when available space is limited.

Embracing Sustainability using Advanced Measurement Instrumentation

A practical guide to greeningyour brewing operationsusing advanced measurementinstrumentation.