Finding lucrative sweet spots in the manufacturing process | Automation.com

Finding lucrative sweet spots in the manufacturing process

Finding lucrative sweet spots in the manufacturing process

March 23, 2016 - Downstream supply chains that rely on confections manufacturers are unforgiving of delays and substandard goods. Confections manufacturers face continual pressure to boost productivity, improve quality, cut costs and pick up their pace to market. These challenges are about survival, and collectively, point to better process efficiencies.

Contrary to common perceptions, a complete plant makeover is not required to affect across-the-board improvements. For one manufacturer, combining modern and centralized efficiencies with parts of an existing platform is producing powerful results.

This established confections manufacturer approached Siemens for consultation on how best to upgrade the technology platform driving its production lines. It was a critical time for the manufacturer. Since its inception, the company had expanded plant operations multiple times and was experiencing another promising phase of growth. There was an imminent need to assess how the company would improve to meet new demand, bring modern efficiencies to existing production lines and easily scale to manage growth over time.

The manufacturer’s challenge was not to add more production lines as it had done in the past, but rather to dramatically increase efficiency, production and speed through other means. The plan called for modernization of systems and technologies to invigorate the business at its core.

The plant produces a larger and more diverse collection of products on its lines compared to similar companies in the confectionery sector. A sophisticated blend of processes and products, combined with high volume and diversity, added complexity to the challenge.

Scope of what an upgraded technology platform needed to do

  • Utilize some existing hardware and software in the upgrade to control spending and deliver ongoing ROI on previous IT investments 
  • Be completely open for local maintenance, servicing and data availability
  • Integrate with existing plant, production and business systems, and enable seamless data collection and transfer across functions – from raw material supply to warehouse management and inventory systems, and beyond
  • Allow deep customization for a proprietary look and feel for screens, system interfaces, functionality, operator efficiency, and a large quantity of product recipes
  • Immediately deliver higher levels of efficiency and performance
  • Provide scalable technologies to accommodate continued growth over the long

The upgrade would involve moving away from the proprietary OEM system the company had been using for years, and eliminating technological barriers to advancement. For example, engineers were unable to maintain the existing system. Source code wasn't always in their hands when they needed it, and often, they couldn’t make system modifications on their own. Additionally, engineers and other business units had to work with data from disparate systems, which, coupled with inherent manual processes, impeded plant- and company-wide efficiency.

The Solution

Through collaborative consultation with the Siemens team, it was determined that the manufacturer would be able to adopt an integrated solution that leverages existing and new technologies, along with the synergies, customization and capabilities in the scope of needs. Emphasis would be placed on promoting an open IT platform and data-driven manufacturing operation.

Over-arching goals were to improve process efficiencies that ensure quality, cost control and on-time delivery; enhance company-wide operations; and give the manufacturer decades of solid and scalable performance.

To achieve this end, one SIMATIC S7-319 main process controller was installed and configured to control product and production lines, and serve as the data concentration hub for all points in the manufacturing process.  The CPU offers the largest memory and fastest processor in the SIMATIC S7-300 CPU family. It provides high-speed program processing and communications, precision, and the integration of high-performance and complex applications, such as counting, measuring, closed-loop control, cam control and motion control. 

Broad-scope efficiencies and data transparency are also delivered through a client/server SCADA solution with open database access for data transfer to other business systems.  This SIMATIC SCADA solution gives the manufacturer solid advantages for ongoing system implementation. Open platform communications (OPC) and an OLE DB server provide visualization and tools for plant-wide and business system data transparency. This engineering framework also provides the tools to code programmable logic controller (PLC) and SCADA systems.

The Results

The critical nature of this manufacturer’s product lines required that the system upgrade be implemented in two phases. Phase one was completed in 2015 and the final phase will be completed in 2016.

The automated system delivers 15 percent more time-efficient operations and ensures accuracy by eliminating potential for manual data entry errors. The manufacturer runs 300-400 raw material transactions during a 12-hour shift. Before the system upgrade, operators manually input material usage into the warehouse management system. This critical process required one to two minutes per transaction. Through advanced automation, speed, efficiency, accuracy and cost controls are substantially improved.

The controller provides the means of communication with all sub-processes in this high-volume, 24/7 manufacturing operation, along with the memory and processing horsepower to handle complex line controls, from material handling all the way to finished product.  It provides all necessary communications interfaces right on-board the CPU. This was important for the manufacturer’s desired application. Of the three on-board communications interfaces, two handle serial-based protocols for PROFIBUS networks and distributed I/O applications and drives. And the controller also has an on-board Ethernet interface that handles PROFINET protocol for distributed I/O.

Additionally, operators have greater control and better utilization of equipment that is customized to the manufacturer’s processes. Results include faster and more precise scheduling, more efficient spacing of orders, and higher system utilization that increases daily production. Additionally, integration with other business systems saves time and reduces potential for manual data entry errors. This is especially important for maintaining correct inventory levels, the lifeblood of an around-the-clock manufacturing operation.

Teamwork Pays Off

Best practices and thoughtful collaboration delivered the design, functionality and operating efficiencies the manufacturer desired. Siemens provided the tools to allow its Solutions Provider DMC to perform a substantial amount of engineering design work to enable custom interfaces with warehouse and inventory systems, as well as the R&D group for recipe integration. DMC then provided the tool set to facilitate the manufacturer’s access to data across the enterprise.

The system upgrade involved more than great products, features and implementation. The company wanted the larger service infrastructure they have relied on for years: a strong, interdependent relationship with their local Siemens distributor, their local Siemens Solutions Provider, and their Siemens team. For this project, Siemens was heavily involved in the decision-making process for what hardware, software and communications architecture would be used, and the local Solutions Provider assists the manufacturer in programming, development and system implementation.

At this juncture in growth and advancement, the manufacturer wanted all hands on deck to ensure a successful project implementation, and they invested the time and resources necessary to do it right. As a result, this leading confections manufacturer has placed its plant and operations on a path to meet a promising future head on.n.

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