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Two Key Questions Process Manufacturers Should Ask Themselves when Implementing New Process Manufacturing Software

Monday, March 29th, 2010 by admin

Many process manufacturers with whom we enter into discussions have a similar make up prior to implementing new process manufacturing software like TGI’s Enterprise 21 system.  Currently, their production reporting exists only on paper.  They also want to do system-enabled production scheduling but don’t have production standards documented, such as the duration of the setup and run times respectively for each product within each production process step.

So, they wonder where to start for their implementation of new process manufacturing software.  Two key elements to be considered to be able to answer these questions are what metrics the process manufacturer wants to be able to track and what they want to accomplish relative to system-enabled production scheduling.

Regarding the question about metrics, it is very common for companies to want to be able to measure and analyze a variety of things.  What is my throughput rate?  How much product is scrapped during production?  What is the yield of various ingredients going into each product?  Do we consistently have to add additional ingredients to the production of some products so they ultimately meet a customer’s specifications when completed?

The only way to be able to analyze and track these metrics is to measure and record data during the production process.  It is often comical to have discussions with potential new clients who want to be able to analyze and track key data – such as lot traceability – who in the same breath argue that they can’t possibly take the time in their operations to record such data.  It’s as if they believe a new process manufacturing system will somehow discern this information without anyone or anything recording the data.  Again, to be able to analyze and track data from a production process requires that data to be measured and recorded – either by human intervention via a keyboard, touch screen, or scanning process or directly from a production manufacturing machine via a data interface.

As for production scheduling, every process manufacturer’s business has certain idiosyncrasies or business rules by which it lives.  First, a given product must go through a series of steps or processes to be produced.  Similarly, each work center in a given production facility has a maximum production capacity or throughput rate.  Next, the amount of time to setup (the preparation time required for a given process step), run time (the actual time to perform the production of a given quantity of a product), and queue time (the amount of time a product must be delayed for cooling or other purposes before it is permitted to move to the next step in the process) needs to be known and documented for each product at each step in the process.

At a deeper level, one must know what products can be run together in a sequence (called scheduling groups) in a given work center so adverse results aren’t produced by running two products through the same work center in succession, and what scheduling groups should be run in what sequences through various work centers to minimize setup time, thus yielding a higher total throughput.  And finally, what classes of products cannot be run simultaneously on two adjacent production work centers as there will be a reaction between the two products causing resulting quality issues.

While there are a number of other details beyond the ones documented above, these items are intended to help depict the process necessary to create a series of business rules required to enable the creation of a system-generated production schedule that can be used by a process manufacturer for the scheduling of their production facilities.

By asking themselves what metrics do I want to be able to track and analyze, and to what extent do I want to be able to perform system-enabled production scheduling, process manufacturers will help define the scope and ultimate success of their implementations of strong process manufacturing systems like Enterprise 21.