Manufacturing Convergence drives enterprise-wide change

Rockwell report: Convergence allows access of the right information, in the right place, at the right time and in the right format.
By Bob Vavra October 9, 2009

This article is excerpted from the new Rockwell Automation white paper, "Manufacturing Convergence: Enabling Plant-Wide Optimization In Any Economy." The full white paper is available at .


Manufacturing Convergence is the merger of traditionally disparate functions and systems across the enterprise. Through this union, all information sources can be streamlined to allow for access of the right information, in the right place, at the right time and in the right format.
This eases configuration, visualization, maintenance and optimization of processes and critical plant assets. IT and the shop floor can share information seamlessly and securely, unleashing new opportunities for collaboration throughout the plant, and across the supply chain.
Integrating machine control with power control opens opportunities to further reduce costs, improve design for manufacturability and help preserve energy.
Together, convergence and the advanced technology that enables it are helping forward-thinking manufacturers position themselves for prosperity in any economy.

Key market drivers
Bringing together people, processes and technology will help organizations address key market drivers – productivity, innovation, globalization and sustainability – to achieve higher levels of business performance, turn equipment resources into financial assets, and discover new opportunities for competitiveness. It’s the merging of manufacturing and production systems with the entire corporate enterprise that allows manufacturers to meet these market drivers, particularly in economically challenging times.
Take productivity, for example. Manufacturers can’t run plants with fewer people and expect the same productivity without fundamental changes in the manufacturing processes.
An era that once stressed "maximum productivity" has evolved to "optimum productivity" where machines, processes and factories dynamically adjust to meet continuous changes in demand. Doing this effectively requires significantly more reliable and available data than in the past.
Consider a leading ethanol producer in Iowa. Tapping into an advanced process control solution that merged software with control technology, this assisted the plant in optimizing productivity – increasing production and throughput while reducing energy consumption.
Though the company continuously pushes its production rate to maximize output, a complex production environment required time-consuming monitoring and evaluation of key processes. This posed constant challenges for operators and plant personnel. The advanced process control solution helped the company maximize production and increase operational efficiencies. The solution controls the plant’s dryers, making adjustments as needed to best suit varying conditions. This approach helps the plant maximize production in the dryers 24/7 while producing the highest possible returns using the plant’s current equipment configuration.
Manufacturers that respond to innovation as both an opportunity and a market driver during these tough economic times are gaining an upper hand for when the economy rebounds. How? By using the automation technology available today, an entire plant can be modeled digitally so new production concepts can be tested virtually. Reconfigurable and scalable manufacturing equipment can be quickly assembled to respond to fast-changing consumer preferences. Intelligent machines can monitor their own health, throughput and yield, and report corrective action to the maintenance staff.
These innovations are making organizations more nimble and flexible in order to move new products to market as requirements change.
Arkema, an industrial chemical producer, helped drive new product innovation and improved productivity with a new, fully integrated process automation system. Working with Rockwell Automation, the company merged control technologies, integrated HMI visualization software into each application, added batch-management software to control recipes, and linked the system together via a communications interface to provide insight for third-party access.
"If we chose to do nothing, it would have only been a matter of time before our plant was non-operational," said John Bryant, engineering and maintenance manager at Arkema. "We knew that we had to invest in a new process automation system that allowed us to move our business to the next level and meet additional market demands."
With the new system, Arkema can constantly try new product grades and pilots, and make changes to the batch in a moment’s notice. In fact, the company has added two new products to its portfolio since the system was installed. Productivity also has improved – batch-creation time has been cut in half.

Convergence and sustainability
Sustainability is an increasingly important market driver, especially during days of mercurial energy prices. Manufacturers are widening their focus from "output efficiency" (how fast a product was made) to also include "input efficiency" (what it took to make the product). The ability to reduce energy costs, measure and manage carbon-footprint and process emissions, as well as improving worker and plant safety and product integrity are all important aspects of a sustainability program. This desire to track all aspects of manufacturing – from suppliers through production to end delivery – requires a heightened level of integration between manufacturing and other areas of the business.
Green Planet Farms, a soy isolate manufacturer based in South Sioux City, NE, has extended its commitment to sustainability beyond the manufacturing process, all the way to the small farmers who grow the organic produce used in manufacturing. All steps – farming through final ingredient processing – are completed using organic methods, which allows for quality products with a minimal footprint on the environment. Their automation systems support sustainability goals as well, with integration into climate control, energy recovery, and track and trace systems.
"Our entire company – warehouse employees to top management – shares the same core value system when it comes to sustainability," said Susanne Stoeger-Moore, board chair and chief marketing officer, Green Planet Farms. "We pride ourselves on partnerships with organic farmers, as well as clean processes and facilities. Sustainability goes all the way from the air we breathe to the energy and methods we deploy for the safety and health of our employees."
Ordinarily, companies talk about a triple bottom line – people, planet and profit. But Green Planet Farms does more than just talk about protecting the environment; Sustainability is a leading principle for every decision that’s made by the organization.
Meeting market drivers – productivity, innovation, globalization and sustainability – has been simplified by today’s technology and the Manufacturing Convergence model. As signs of economic recovery begin to appear, forward-thinking companies are looking to Manufacturing Convergence to unify manufacturing with other functions throughout the entire enterprise and across the supply chain.

Streamlined, insightful information
Manufacturers need to continuously adjust their strategies to stay ahead of market drivers. This requires thinking about how to combine systems, technology and people in new and different ways. It means moving past the status quo to create greater value from existing tangible assets, and levering technology to unleash the most important intangible assets – creativity and intelligence.
Using the four core automation disciplines – information, communications, control and power – manufacturers can unlock the hidden potential of these assets. To integrate these disciplines, the architectural principles of scalability, openness and information-enablement must be applied across the board.
Information is the key to gaining the insights necessary to improve decision-making and expose opportunities. But without the correct organization and context, a mass of information is meaningless. The goal for manufacturers is presenting information in context.
Combining an enterprise manufacturing intelligence (EMI) software with its existing control and historian systems allowed International Paint , a division of Netherlands-based Akzo Nobel, to increase production to meet growing demand for its coating products by optimizing existing production lines rather than expanding plant facilities.
The company wanted to replace its existing batch reporting systems, which consisted of manual data entry and spreadsheet tools that didn’t provide real insight into production operations. They also wanted the ability to share information, in its proper context, among users anywhere in the plant.
The real-time visibility and performance management software solution helped International Paint improve production performance by more than 20% – an estimated savings of about $500,000 a year – within a few months of implementation.
The company also reaped the rewards of the higher level business intelligence capabilities the solution provided. The solution facilitated information-sharing among production and supervisory staff, allowing them to better monitor production information in the appropriate context.

Intelligent power control
Power is the muscle of the factory. In a world hungry for energy efficiency and asset reliability, the convergence of power and energy management into control, communications and information systems has become imperative. Today’s intelligent power-control equipment allows energy to be a tightly controlled variable in the production process and an economic asset for broader business optimization.
Power and energy-management solutions play a key role in sustainability, helping businesses understand where and how resources are being consumed. All processes have the potential for improvement and, in an economic downturn, honing in a variety of energy offenders makes sound business sense.
The Region of Peel, which owns the Mississauga, Ontario, landfill awarded Integrated Gas Recovery Services (IGRS) the rights to collect, control and, ultimately, generate electricity from the landfill gases. IGRS contracted a system integrator to design, build and install a fully automated control system. The system needed to do everything from power the gas extraction process to intelligently control the temperature.
The new automated system powered and controlled nearly all aspects of the process, from collecting and treating gases to generating electricity. With an integrated automation solution that maximizes efficiency and uptime, the IGRS facility produces around 5,000 kilowatts of power per hour, enough to power an average of 5,000 homes in the Mississauga area.
"By intelligently controlling the drives and motors, we’ve experienced tremendous energy savings," said Matt Dugan, Plant Engineering Manager at Comcor. "For example, instead of running both 450hp gas compressors at full speed, the drives typically run at around 75% of their maximum speed to provide sufficient gas supply to run the engines but minimize parasitic power costs."
Efficiency translates to savings since motors in an industrial setting typically consume more than 60% of a plant’s energy. In addition to producing high volumes of net power, the facility has prevented the landfill’s greenhouse gases from causing an adverse effect on the surrounding community.
"It’s rewarding to develop a project that reduces greenhouse emissions and, in turn, generates electricity from these gases which otherwise would be vented to the atmosphere or flared off," Dugan added. "The way the equipment seamlessly interacts has certainly helped us manage information and monitor production, even when we’re away from the facility."

Unfortunately, many manufacturers are facing an internal conflict when it comes to purchasing solutions to better manage energy use. They are being asked to cut capital investments or invest only in projects that produce a designated ROI. Consider a dashboarding tool that provides visibility to production data across multiple lines and plants and shows when and where energy is being used. The organization calculates an ROI for the tool based on known data by multiplying the change in energy requirements by the rate charged by the electric utility at the time. Analyzing this data in tandem with other available data such as material costs, weather patterns and production capacity could produce a greater ROI, but these metrics are difficult to access. Manufacturing Convergence helps organizations access this type of information so they can make more information decisions about the value of longer-term projects.
By taking the time to evaluate the total cost of ownership and overall cost-savings that energy management systems can return, manufacturers could recoup their investment – often within months of purchase – and then continue to reap the rewards.

Look into the future
No one knows for sure when the economy will rebound, and the business landscape for manufacturers continues to shift significantly. But there is good news amid the volatility.
Manufacturing Convergence and the advanced technology that enables it offers manufacturers an opportunity to make changes to bring their businesses in sync with the new market realities, increase their plant-wide optimization and get a step ahead of their competition.
• Invest in total-cost of ownership. As the credit crunch relaxes and more cash becomes available, businesses need to make important decisions about new investments. It’s important to analyze total cost savings, rather than total cost alone. Companies choosing to invest in solutions that increase productivity while reducing operating costs will gain the upper hand.
• Look at the big picture. It’s easy to get caught up in cost-cutting measures when cash is tight, and manufacturers tend to gravitate toward small fixes in-house. Instead, manufacturers need to seize the opportunity to look all aspects of the entire supply chain to increase value, optimize productivity and reduce costs.
• Migrate to new technology. Successful organizations are increasingly using Manufacturing Convergence to improve information access, power visualization, control and conservation.
• Choosing solutions that are scalable, open and information-enabled provide the flexibility to streamline processes and improve decision making for added business value.

Ultimately, companies that leverage Manufacturing Convergence across all their resources – bringing their people, processes and technologies together – will achieve plantwide optimization. Plus, they’ll secure a significant competitive advantage in any industry, in any region and in any economy.