Plant & Works Engineering
Fully integrated ‘smart manufacturing’ solution can help minimise unplanned downtime
Published:  19 January, 2022

Phrases like ‘Smart Manufacturing’, ‘Industry 4.0’ and the ‘Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are widely used terminology in the context of today’s manufacturing environment. However, these concepts, which embody the idea of using technology to benefit manufacturers, are slow to be adopted, particularly by companies operating within more mature, traditional sectors. PWE reports.

The challenge for these companies is to recognise that the current state of technology can always be better and to embrace this to improve efficiency, eliminate waste, and reduce risk. The best-run factories in the world are already striving to deliver efficiency, waste, and risk benefits to some extent, but at great human effort, with operational, production, quality, maintenance, and quarterly board meetings along with informal chats, talks and discussions between skilled and experienced teams.

Local industry Code of Conduct compliance standards, Good Manufacturing Practices and ISO standards all expect these activities, yet very few factories running today stand out because of high efficiency, utilisation, or quality. Why not? The reason is because these management activities take up a huge number of resources to prepare for and attend, but lack consistent, reliable data to back up any decisions taken. This leads to less effective meetings, to a culture of avoiding accountability for taking risks, and to a reliance on hiring confident, bold, experienced industry captains willing to make difficult decisions.

This is where ‘Smart Manufacturing’ can help. By investing in Smart Manufacturing, the goal is to remove the cost and effort required to prepare information and reports for these vital operational management meetings, as well as give greater reassurance that the information they are using is reliable and trustworthy. Decisions are much more likely to succeed and have the intended impact if they are objectively based on good quality, reliable information. Plus, you do not need to have twenty years of experience in anything to make a good decision, if you are in possession of all the facts and you are in a better position to learn from any unexpected outcomes if you can compare the new results with the information available to you when you made the decision. Fundamental to this idea of real-time, accurate, and actionable information is systems integration.

This was a particular challenge identified by Promtek, a long-standing British software vendor to the UK and Irish Bulk Ingredient Handling Industries. Many of Promtek’s clients, had for decades, been using poorly integrated, clumsy, and unsustainable business processes consisting of a mix of paper-based systems, spreadsheets, and poor-quality, bespoke software.

Just over a year ago, Promtek was approached by PEMAC, an Irish-based Asset and Maintenance Management Solutions Provider who saw the potential to combine its best-of-breed CMMS (Computerised Maintenance Management System) with Promtek’s MES (Manufacturing Execution System), developed on its Condor platform.

PEMAC had already successfully trialled and implemented a comparable solution with its client Rottapharm (now Viatris), enabling it to adopt a usage-based maintenance programme by feeding machine run-time data from the PEMAC Assets CMMS through to Rottapharm’s Barco MES. At the end of each shift, every Rottapharm machine sent PEMAC it’s run time hours allowing work to be scheduled efficiently. By linking its machine data to PEMAC’s CMMS in this way, Rottapharm ensured that all issues were logged and investigated, creating a true understanding of machine performance. This in turn, reduced data handling and administration, eliminating 54% of Rottapharm’s preventative maintenance routines, 75% of its engineering time, and 50% of its maintenance cost.

Discussions between PEMAC and Promtek soon uncovered the potential for a combined solution to enable complex business operations like bulk ingredient handling and premix factories to integrate not just production and maintenance, but other disconnected systems managing finance, sales, purchasing, planning, and warehousing.

This fully integrated ‘smart manufacturing’ solution would give Promtek’s clients the ability to gain more efficiency, utilisation, returns on Capex investments and improved product quality from their manufacturing facilities, which would enable key operations to communicate in real-time and exchange relevant information.

In terms of just maintenance management alone, such a smart manufacturing solution can minimise the total cost of ownership of process equipment by monitoring actual records of wear and tear and planning preventative maintenance activities to minimise unplanned downtime due to breakdowns and system failures. It can also manage the stock of spare parts and identify fast- and slow-moving items. It can measure the Mean Time Between Failure and identify equipment that is failing to meet performance targets, providing realistic CostBenefit analysis for opportunities to replace and upgrade.

The combined PEMAC-Promtek solution helps clients, specifically in specialist ingredient handling industries, to:

Consume real-time records of wear and tear from their production process controls, giving more accurate planning of preventative maintenance.

Integrate with ERP to report live stock levels of spares.

Send processing equipment maintenance requests to production management to include in production planning

To advance further, more manufacturers need to work smarter, not harder. They must invest in process equipment and platforms. They must educate their integrators and support suppliers, so everyone understands how to produce reliable and trustworthy production data. This information should be capable of being shared safely, securely, and seamlessly with other tools and systems running operations throughout their business and wider industry.