Gartner defines process manufacturing as, “manufacturing that adds value by performing chemical reactions or physical actions to transform materials, or by extracting, mixing, separating or forming materials in batch or continuous production modes.”
Process manufacturers generally deal with products that pour, such as liquids or powders, and are produced in bulk quantities. It includes industries, such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages and gasoline.
A process manufacturing system must balance four constraints. First, the batch size is constrained by the amount of product on order and stock quantities to be kept on hand. This is particularly key when using materials or creating a product with a limited shelf life. The second constraint is ingredients, as the most limited ingredient determines how much product can be made. Then, there’s packaging inventory, and one of the challenges of process manufacturing is that you need to store the final product in something. The fourth constraint is capacity—or the ability to make a product within the production facility itself.
The critical function of a process manufacturing system is inventory control. One important feature of the inventory system is the ability to manage different units of measurement, for example, determining how many liters of an item are available when it is received in 55 gallon drums. Related to inventory is recipe management, that is, how to alter the formula to make a certain amount or to use available inventory.
On the other hand, a process manufacturing system can be part of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, or be part of a best-of-breed set of solutions. It is also possible to integrate with a manufacturing execution system (MES). Accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll and general ledger are the standard features of these systems. While most installations use on-premises equipment, cloud-based options are also available. Software as a service (SaaS) viability is primarily dictated by the value of installed technology base, but projected maintenance costs of both hardware and software is an important factor as well.
Henry Ford once said, “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Manufacturers must heed these words and always strive to make business processes more efficient. Some of the major concerns they face include:
Process manufacturing software is designed specifically to manage these complexities. For manufacturers, fulfilling regulatory compliance by tracing ingredients and industrial waste is pivotal. Therefore, across the globe, executives are considering process manufacturing platforms to monitor business processes from end-to-end, that is, from production to delivery.
It is important to note that manufacturing executives can extend process manufacturing capabilities with their existing ERP or MES solutions as an additional module or integration. Furthermore, numerous vendors in the market offer specialized solutions for process manufacturing businesses. Executives should involve all the stakeholders to list out the requisite capabilities in a solution. In addition, buyers should evaluate the suitability and capability of the solution vis-à-vis their requirements before adapting the solution.
Process manufacturing professionals should focus on resolving the following challenges via a process manufacturing platform:
There are many objectives that can be achieved with the help of a process manufacturing application. Manufacturing organizations with mobile employees and remote workstations should ideally look for solutions that also offer mobile applications.
In evaluating software, process manufacturers should consider the following functions to meet their unique requirements:
|Delivery-driven production||Delivery-driven production matches the batch size to the amount on order plus the quantity to be kept on hand. The system should also verify that all other constraints are met.|
|Ingredient-driven production||Ingredient-driven production matches the batch size to the available quantities of the ingredients on hand. The system should also verify that all other constraints are met.|
|Packaging-driven production||Packaging-driven production matches the batch size to the finished amount that can be packaged with materials on hand. The system should also verify that all other constraints are met.|
|Capacity-driven production||Capacity-driven production matches the batch size to the maximum capacity that the floor can produce. The system should also verify that all other constraints are met.|
|Critical path production||If the process has stages with delays in between, such as a fermenting stage, then the system can match orders of ingredients to the time when they are required. This can save money in initial production costs by delaying purchases until required but runs the risk of loosing a batch if a required ingredient is not available in time.|
|Expiration tracking||Both ingredients and products can have limited shelf lives. The system needs to track expired and close-to-end-of-life inventory.|
|Recipe management||The system should include recipe management, including ingredient substitution. In some cases, ingredients are encoded to keep recipes secret.|
|Lot management||Each lot must be identified and tracked. The ingredients of each batch must be tied to their individual batch number as well.|
|Yield variances||The system should track actual yield versus expected yield for each batch. The system should report excessive variance based on user-defined thresholds and indicate if variances are so large that regulating agencies should be notified.|
|Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) compliance||cGMP compliance is required for many regulatory agencies at the state and federal levels as well as for insurance purposes. The system should produce required compliance reports.|
|Units of measure management||The system should convert units of measurement as required for inventory management, order processing, receiving and batch production.|
|Available to promise, capable to promise||Available to promise (ATP) and capable to promise (CTP) are measures of manufacturing capacity. The system should calculate the ATP and CTP for any stock item, accounting for ingredients on hand and any work in process.|
|EPA and OSHA compliance||Manufacturers that make, use or have byproducts that are highly hazardous chemicals (HHCs) must comply with the EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) and OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) regulations. The system should produce required compliance reports.|
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