Reducing scrap and risk at plastic facility

A leading plastics manufacturer needs a full, top-to-bottom technological makeover to update obsolete systems, improve efficiency and reliability, while reducing scrap and inaccuracies.

By Matt Cingcade December 2, 2022
Courtesy: Rovisys


Learning Objectives

  • A plastic manufacturer wanted to overhaul their legacy control system to reduce inefficiencies and waste.
  • The system integrator chosen for the project improved process control and information flow to provide real-time data through the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
  • The results were improved visibility in the manufacturing process and less need for manual intervention.

Asset management insights

  • Upgrading a legacy control system at any facility can be challenging because there often is little room for downtime. System integration and control system migration can be especially challenging in industries that are constantly producing and cannot afford delays.
  • Improving process and information flow, in this case, gave the plastics manufacturing a modern control system that provided data insights they couldn’t have before.

A global acquisition provided a Missouri-based plastic bag manufacturer the opportunity to upgrade its legacy controls and information infrastructure. The goal was to create a state-of-the-art, data-rich system that was up to the challenge of modern manufacturing.

Control system upgrade challenges

The plant requires precise timing throughout every step of its manufacturing process to keep product flowing. Any interruption in the process results in hours of downtime and requires manual intervention for equipment cleaning and system reset. Plus, incomplete batches are problematic, and effect customers downstream.

The legacy control system that had been running this process required continual operator interaction, resources and operator-hours to run. In this manual-labor heavy environment, inventory reconciliation was consistently 15 to 25% off, and the company was unable to consistently calculate the scrap that resulted.

To bring operations up to date, the company needed a system integrator with expertise to take on a massive overhaul of a supervisory batch implementation with a requirement for real-time, on-time delivery of product. After exploring the market and experimenting with integration competitors, the manufacturer found an integrator that possessed the required industry knowledge as well as extrusion and batch processing experience with large-scale migrations, which would be needed to make the project a success.

Beyond the automation implementation, the system integration project included assessing the existing system, gathering of project requirements, providing design guidance and strong project management to ensure that the final solution met the entire working group’s needs.

Two-part control system upgrade

The enterprise-wide nature of the effort made the initial assessment phase critical. With so many stakeholders, the first steps of requirements gathering, problem identification, site survey, interviews, and collecting information set up a foundation to build the right solution.

All stakeholders were interviewed: global IT personnel, operators, plant floor staff, supply chain and raw materials experts, maintenance workers and managers. Using interview information and other information, a comprehensive plan in two parts was developed.

  1. Process control:  The integrator crafted a supervisory batch solution around the challenges of the fast-paced resin delivery system, comprised of many shared pieces of equipment. Modern fault tolerant network topologies, connected devices, and distributed I/O were deployed to create a solid basis for robust operations and to enable continuous information flow. Leveraging the plant floor’s infrastructure and the simplicity of the ISA-88 model, the integrator established an efficient and straight forward means for the convergence of the plant floor real time data with the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

  2. Information flow:  The integrator also designed and developed a data communication protocol using XML and RESTful web services to receive production orders, recipes and inventory data from the company’s ERP system. Inventory consumption data from production would be automatically reported back to the ERP system to allow for accurate inventory tracking without any user interaction.

Project results

Once each component of the modernized solution was tested and ready, the integrator worked directly with the plastics manufacturer to roll out the solution with as little disruption as possible. A five-day window was allotted to get the first production line operating. The integrator was able to bring the first line up in just three days, and within five days, five out of six of the total lines were running on the new system.

With the solution in place, the plastics manufacturer saw quick resolution of its key issues. There was complete visibility into overall manufacturing process with traceability to each individual material in every batch. Legacy components also had been eliminated, which reduced the risk of potential downtime due to obsolete parts and manual intervention.

Matt Cingcade is director, chemicals and specialty chemicals, RoviSys. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, CFE Media and Technology,


Keywords: process control, enterprise resource planning, ERP


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What challenges can you overcome by upgrading a legacy control system?

Original content can be found at Control Engineering.

Author Bio: Matt Cingcade is director, chemicals and specialty chemicals, RoviSys.