Manufacturing Gets Nimbler

Faster and better production campaigns promise a compelling competitive advantage.

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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To meet its needs, PVC Compounders selected a custom software solution from Wonderware, a unit of Invensys Operations Management, Plano, Texas. The Wonderware System Platform links El Paso to the main plant in Indiana, providing a unified environment for visualization of the plant floor, plant history, device communications and automation application integration. It also works with the plant's programmable logic controllers to form a smart system for continuous improvement. Wonderware's InTouch introduces point-and-click control to the process, including silos, storage bins and different ways of incorporating plasticizers, fillers and other ingredients. At the same time, Wonderware Historian gives operators the accurate real-time data needed to make adjustments to temperatures in the mixing process, the amperage of the mixing equipment and other parameters, ensuring that the finished product is consistent.

Before the new software was installed, operators had to consult multiple stations for scheduling, retrieving formulas and determining how many batches were required to complete an order. Now, all equipment operations can be viewed in a central location via an easy-to-interpret graphical representation of the line that avoids misinterpretation due to language.

"Wonderware has really helped us because it allows us to automate our process and reduces human interference. And that actually reduces our margin of error, making our process and product more consistent," says Subburaman Ananthanarayanan, quality manager. The plant has improved product consistency, achieved its goal of reduced scrap, and reported a lower incidence of human error. "With Wonderware in place, our internal failures have really reduced. Our goal for internal failures is less than 1%, and we've been meeting these goals," he notes.

"I would say that the Wonderware software has given us a 15–20% reduction in our downtime. We used to publish that we have an industry lead time of two weeks. But we're turning product around in our plant in less than one week on every order. I attribute that to the Wonderware software," adds Jason Gitt, general manager.

Cutting Costs
The rapid changeovers demanded by agile manufacturing shouldn't disrupt software and validation or pose production issues. "Such a changeover should be done with a focus on throughput and efficiency, operator effectiveness and asset utilization, and delivered using a robust platform that allows users to easily keep current with technology. At the same time, it should be done in a manner that will reduce maintenance, quality and regulatory compliance costs," notes Dawn Marruchella, DeltaV batch product marketing manager, Emerson Process Management, Austin, Texas.

Customer requests for more agile manufacturing techniques spurred Emerson's development of the Dynamic Unit Allocation feature in the latest release of DeltaV batch software. It aims to allow companies to respond quickly to their own production needs and market changes — while controlling costs and quality.

A second key feature in the batch software is the capability for an operator to change manufacturing equipment at any time during a batch. This permits users to recover from upset situations where the planned production equipment becomes unavailable.

A new recipe resynchronization capability enables engineers to update a recipe even after a batch has started — process improvements can be incorporated without having to wait for the next batch. This can offer substantial benefits for processes with long batch times.

The scalability of this solution appealed to Elekeiroz of Várzea Paulista, Brazil, which chose DeltaV to update its critical batch applications.

The first part of the project involved deploying DeltaV on the company's complex polyester resins process against a tight schedule. "The high point of the installation for the resin unit is the reliability of the formulas. Since the resin unit works with a very large variety of products, each formula varies from one to the other. The reliability we added to the operation is essential. It's the most important aspect of the installation," says Maria da Conceição Pinto, executive manager. In addition, the digital system's embedded historian provides documentation for ISO 9001 compliance.

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