Integrating SCADA and MES software offers manufacturers a competitive advantage. Christopher Crowe* reports for Manufacturers’ Monthly.
MOST Australian manufacturers would be familiar with technologies like SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) and MES (manufacturing execution system).
Many companies, particularly those competing in global markets, have adopted some level of these technologies, but they are still being pushed to do more with less. The drive to continually increase productivity and profitability, as well as meet market challenges is relentless. So what can these companies do next? The answer is in integration.
Real-time automation and control systems enable manufacturers to know what is happening on the plant floor at all times and respond immediately to any issues.
An MES provides real-time access to plant and business information, helping management plan business strategies and to measure plant information against company objectives.
An MES can reveal opportunities to increase throughput, eliminate downtime, reduce wastage, improve quality levels and track resource genealogy.
When these systems are integrated they allow an organisation to feed real-time production information into its ERP system and so receive advance warning when a problem with a production line might impact, for example, the company’s delivery schedule and regulation compliance. An integrated system can deliver additional benefits such as reducing implementation costs, improving scheduling capabilities, enhancing reliability and maximising safety.
Drink can manufacturer Amcor wanted to drive a series of process improvement initiatives.
The company implemented CitectSCADA and Ampla in all its plants, with the exception of the Rocklea facility where it is currently being rolled-out, and has since reduced plant reporting time from one day to a few minutes per month. Plant management can now identify and solve the causes of plant downtime, and subsequently increase productivity.
Amcor now has the ability to record real-time operational data at the plant, work area and machine levels, and to generate metrics that can be meaningfully compared with other can-making plants both within Amcor, and externally.
In addition, the SCADA and MES software can help organisations address two specific issues challenging Australian business today — the skills shortage and protection of the environment.
Thanks to the automation capabilities organisations can increase their productivity with existing staff levels and, if they use a mobile solution they can free up staff to patrol a plant and perform maintenance and production checks as necessary, while still being notified of any alarms triggered at the control area.
Also, as organisations come under increasing pressure to reduce their energy usage and greenhouse emissions, the monitoring systems can help them increase efficiency, reduce wastage and measure emissions.
Wider business issues
The importance of these wider business issues is impacting the selection and purchase of technology.
In the 35 years Citect has been operating in Australia we have seen the decision to purchase manufacturing systems move from the plant floor to senior management and we have seen an extension from product-only purchases to the inclusion of managed services.
Current economic and business pressures have seen companies reduce their full-time work force to improve their bottom line. When this happens, businesses are looking to their technology suppliers to provide the services that will help them maximise the potential benefits offered by systems such as SCADA and MES.
The move to this collaboration approach is growing. Clients are increasingly coming to us looking for ongoing solutions to their business problems — not just a new product.
They might have a problem with productivity, efficiency or downtime and they want a partner who is not just going to drop off a box and run, but actually ensure that the product is integrated properly into the operation so that it ultimately contributes to not only the current operation of the business but also to plans for future development.
We’re told by clients that a good supplier is one that worries more about their business than they do; one who comes to them with suggestions on how to address problems before the client is even aware the problem exists.
Collaboration between clients and suppliers is now a must for most businesses. Customers insist that their suppliers transform themselves to become more business partners attending quarterly business reviews, and strategic planning sessions so they can draw on our expertise and our familiarity with their businesses.
* Christopher Crowe is CEO of Citect: www.citect.com