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Process Manufacturing Made “Simple” with Formula Management and Scalable Batches

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 by Alex Smith

Process manufacturing is frequently referred to as “simple” by those in the discrete manufacturing camp, yet if you ask any food, chemical, or pharmaceutical manufacturer if process manufacturing is truly simple, the manufacturer will quickly provide many examples of the growing list of challenges faced on a day-to-day basis.

For process manufacturers, two of the most common challenges are formula and recipe management and scalable batches. Experienced processors recognize that regardless of the product produced, one size does not fit all. A can of soup, a box of detergent, and a bottle of cough syrup are all packaged and sold in multiple types of shapes and sizes. The need for flexible units of measure, formulas, and batch sizes have united food, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies into a process community focused on improving the capabilities and processing options at all steps of the production process. This unification has taken the historically discrete-focused ERP software industry and brought about a number of strong process-based ERP software packages.

A key differentiator for process manufacturing software is the ability to take a standard bill of materials and craft it into a sophisticated and scalable formula that is comprised of a variety of ingredients, units of measure, yields, and by-products or co-products. This formula or recipe can be dynamically scaled to match the ideal batch size, thus meeting current demand levels, optimizing vat and ingredient usage, tracking all ingredient costs, and blending in the appropriate manner to facilitate a finished good that is within specification and acceptable for final sale.

While the idea of a scalable batch may appear rudimentary for ERP software packages, it is not functionally feasible in the original, discrete manufacturing ERP software solutions. In fact, it is not even feasible in all of the ERP software solutions that are marketed to process manufacturers. A recipe with ingredients, yields, and instructions is not the same as a discrete bill of materials. The recipe needs to accommodate ingredient-based instructions and be able to scale up or down based on a given demand level. The recipe or formula needs to be able to manage intermediates, ingredient level yields, and support private label requirements if necessary. The software needs to provide operational control while allowing for a high level of flexibility and scalability.

How does a process manufacturer select the right process manufacturing software solution? The most reliable means of doing so would be a thorough evaluation of potential software packages demonstrated with real data via an onsite scripted demonstration. Even with the advancements in process manufacturing ERP software, not all software packages can perform at the same level. The best technique for separating and comparing one package from another is through reviewing the definition and processing of a sample formula that is scaled for a specific batch or production run. If the ERP vendor cannot demonstrate the software’s ability to manage this process, the software will struggle in a real production environment.

TGI offers free software selection tools and resources for both process and discrete manufacturers. Please visit TGI’s available online resources or TGI’s online request form to order the free Software Selection Tool Kit.