Striking the perfect balance?

  • August 04, 2012
  • Feature
Dow Corning Standardization on Siemens
August 2012
By Bill Lydon, Editor
Barry MacGregor, Manager, Global Process Automation at Dow Corning discussed the implementation of Dow Corning’s process automation vision at Siemens 2012 Automation Summit in Washington D.C.  Dow Corning now has a centralized automation group to achieve corporate goals. As a side note, with this new corporate structure there are also new career ladders, providing more career options for their internal automation professionals.  In January 2012, Dow Corning announced that they selected Siemens as their strategic Process Automation Partner following a review and evaluation process using Six Sigma techniques. Dow Corning started this change management activity in early 2009 to migrate the company from disparate and unique site-based automation to globally consistent automation. The goal was to achieve higher levels of productivity. The relationship with Siemens is based on a Global Supply Contract for Simatic PCS 7 as the platform of choice going forward for Dow Corning’s batch, continuous and discrete process automation solutions. In the Siemens press release about the relationship, Barry MacGregor was quoted, “Siemens PCS 7 platform best meets Dow Corning batch, continuous and discrete process requirements to achieve higher productivity, improved safety and lower cost of production through the use of automation solutions.”
MacGregor framed his presentation as a description of how they transitioned the automation organization from decentralized to centralized so they could be more effective. The company has approximately 11,000 employees located in 10 countries with 26 manufacturing locations. The company structure in the past was 20 separate decentralized process automation teams of 1-20 people each. These teams had absolute autonomy to decide what system to use for process automation and how to implement them.   MacGregor said, “They had independent objectives focused on how that site wanted to run; much more so than how Dow Corning wanted that site to run.” The sites had 32 different control system solution vendors. They are still close to that today since they have just started with Siemens as their new global standard. “Project based decisions, competitively bid, you get the lowest price - you get 32 different ones…,” said MacGregor.   This also resulted in multiple support contracts, spare parts, documentation, and training.
In 2009 they formed a new Global Manufacturing Automation (GMA) team focused on implementing automation to improve productivity. The team included MES (level 3) and process automation (level 2) relating to the S95 model. MacGregor stated, “We have delivered $100 million in productivity improvement in the 3 years since we have been in existence.” “These improvements are measured using Six Sigma criteria.”  Measurements include cost avoidance, cost reduction, elimination of non-value added activities, and inventory reduction.
Case for Change
MacGregor described the major reasons for making a change. They had widely varying and inconsistent results with automation and the cost variance was up to ten times. Systems from multiple vendors at different sites to do the same automation and control resulted in separate support contracts, unique skills required at sites, and inconsistent quality. Site independence also resulted in a range of unique MES systems at the sites which further contributed to inefficiencies. Dow Corning has a single SAP system globally with one set of servers. The various MES types resulted in multiple interfaces from the various plant systems, therefore creating inefficiency at the level 4 interfaces and requiring varying support.  The plants have common or similar chemical processes at plant sites and multiple system types makes it expensive and difficult to make control changes and implement consistent continuous improvement. 
Change Management Techniques
Dow Corning implemented a six step change management process and a twelve step direction setting and action planning process. Six Sigma methods are followed within this framework using voice of the customer and voice of the business. Automation people at sites now report to corporate and this allows sharing of resources. A six step change management process is used:
  1. Informational Concerns – Define a change and its impact asking, why are we doing this?
  2. Personal Concerns – How does this impact me and why should I care?
  3. Implementation Concerns – How can we make this work, what are the roadblocks, what steps do we take?
  4. Impact Concerns – Is it worth change and will it make a difference?
  5. Collaboration Concerns – Communicate by spreading the word about how others can get the benefits.
  6. Refinement Concerns – How can this be made better; what is next?
When approaching potential changes they developed a Multi-Generational Plan (MPG) from 12 steps: (Editor’s Note: they refer to Generation which I think of as phases in the change process.)
  1. Write final generation vision statement. They asked people in the organization from around the world what they think the attributes of the systems and organization should be in the next 12-15 years to create a vision.
  2. Brainstorm possible major steps.
  3. Combine, Delete, Add, and Modify (CDAM) brainstorming steps.
  4. Rank importance of brainstorming steps by voting.
  5. Determine urgency for each step – what generation of change does it fit into.
  6. Check to see if steps are in scope.
  7. Sort steps by importance in descending order then by generation in ascending order
  8. Select generational breaks, eliminate unimportant steps, and add missing steps.
  9. Select names for the “Theme” of each generation.
  10. Record information and decisions in main project documentation file including deciding if the steps are decisions, activities, or projects and setting metrics.
  11. Write charters as needed for identified project work.
  12. Review periodically as progress is made on the plan.
From this process came the Dow Corning Process Automation Multi-Generational Plan (MPG) with this vision statement: Unleashing the power of our manufacturing plants through the power of automation. From this came highly detailed objectives and 42 distinct activities and 6 generations. The plan was created in 2009 and has been revised four times since then.
PCS 7 Selection
One outcome of this process was the selection of PCS 7 as the automation platform for Dow Corning. MacGregor stated, “It gets the whole organization thinking that we are going in a single direction, trying to get to the same place.” He noted there is a great deal of work to be done for creating consistency across plant sites. A big part of the effort is defining standards about how to run the process within Dow Corning. They are working with Siemens on this to develop PCS 7 libraries using the APL (Advanced Process Library).
Recognizing all systems cannot be changed immediately, they are developing a migration plan to move to the PCS 7 platform over time for all facilities. MacGregor described how global contracts had to be negotiated with Siemens and the existing suppliers.  “This can be pretty challenging when you tell them, ‘You lost’,” said MacGregor. They are enforcing this decision down to the controller level - automation people at Dow Corning must get a waiver from Dow Corning corporate anytime they are going to buy a non-PCS 7 controller. They have a common work process for analyzing site process automation systems and determining their stage in the systems life cycle.
Barry MacGregor shared these lessons learned from this process:
  • Change is hard and pioneering is harder.
  • Communicate relentlessly until the intent of what you are doing is understood.
  • Have a plan that shows the future and how you are going to get there.
  • Be flexible as you get more information and input - change the plan.
  • Be open to ideas from the team.
  • Deviations can be taken to meet the top priority of keeping the plants running.
  • Keep focus, “We are running a chemical business, not an automation business.”
  • Supplier relationship is important. At first there were two winners that each technically fit the requirements but through the negotiations Dow Corning realized that Siemens was a better overall choice.
Thoughts & Observations
Centralization and federation of automation resources to support plants allows for sharing of scarcer technical resources that may become a necessity for many large users. I have been talking with other users that are moving this direction. Over the years this has been like a pendulum swinging between decentralized and centralized. New methods for remote troubleshooting are making this more effective as a strategy. 
As a means to achieve Dow Corning’s objectives, they decided to standardize on one single system architecture for automation – the Siemens PCS 7.  I wonder if part of the need to focus on a single supplier is driven by a lack of broad effective open standards for seamless multivendor interoperability.
In some ways this approach is moving back to the old model of buying process automation from one single supplier.
Standardizing on a single system architecture does simplify training and has the net effect of having more productive staff.
Barry MacGregor emphasized that a major factor is trust and mutual respect between them and their partner. This is a major factor that can change over time.
The big question, is this striking the perfect balance?  Dow Corning’s Barry MacGregor made a strong case for this in his presentation.


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