09 April 2001
Batch the future of multiplant production
New processing plants of today and tomorrow will consistently rely on merging their plantwide information systems with their batch process control systems. Fueling this integration is the enormous growth of the business-to-business e-commerce market.
Within this environment, manufacturers must rapidly move information from the "shop floor" to the "top floor" as customers place orders—sometimes for custom production runs—via their Web browsers.
Indeed, many manufacturers no longer own and operate large plants; they are using many smaller facilities in an effort to diversify and run their overall businesses more efficiently.
Working under this new production model, manufacturers are connecting their enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to their shop floor control systems. These linked production and enterprisewide information systems allow plant and office personnel to precisely track the status of each order, whether it be a custom or standard product.
The ability to track orders and maintain batch consistency and quality is invaluable for manufacturers that produce the same product in facilities throughout the world.
In a typical multinational or nationwide information/control setup, customers place orders with the manufacturer via the Internet or another Web-based system. These orders route to the ERP system, which, through a series of calculations and comparisons, determines which of the company's plants can best fill the order.
Parameters involved with this decision process include which plant has the raw materials on hand, geographic proximity to the customer, and production levels and potential backlogs at any given plant.
After the ERP system decides which plant will process the order, it dispatches the order for processing. This is where batch and quality consistency control comes into play. Products made at different facilities must hold to consistent standards.
A batch of soft drink, for example, must taste exactly the same whether it's made in Texas or Tahiti. So batch and recipe management software must take certain factors into account, such as different production equipment used in various plants and variations in raw materials from region to region.
Another factor is that a manufacturer may be outsourcing some of its production work to third-party facilities. By compensating for these plant-to-plant variations, batch management software ensures worldwide batch consistency and quality no matter where the manufacturing happens.
Enterprisewide systems coupled to process control systems help manufacturers make the most of their processing facilities. ERPs linked to control systems are changing the face of batch production by determining which plant can best fill an order.