Ten reasons to build a process model for a manufacturing plant

A process model can be anything from a simple spreadsheet to a complex model that includes all aspects of a real-world manufacturing plant, which includes only what is necessary to answer vital questions.


The top 10 reasons why you should build a process model. Courtesy: CRBA process model can be anything from a simple spreadsheet to a complex model that includes all aspects of a real-world manufacturing plant. However, the best model does not include everything. It only includes what is necessary to answer questions.

There is an art to selecting the right subset of the real world to model. One question to consider: Under what circumstances is a model and simulation project likely to add the most value? Here are some situations we have encountered where modeling has provided valuable insights and led to reduced cost and/or increased throughput. 

1. Determine equipment number and sizing for a facility design. As an example, how many bioreactors and purification trains are needed to meet the 10-year forecasted demands?

2. Check for process bottlenecks. Most processes are very complicated—lots of equipment and resources. Sometimes, the bottleneck varies over time or as a function of process variability. Knowing where a bottleneck is and how constraining it is can help improve throughput.

3. Size a utility system. Manufacturing plants often have many utility demands, some of which may be poorly characterized. Factors such as sanitization schedules and preventive maintenance can affect the delivery of critical utilities. Without the availability of these utilities, when needed, the throughput and/or the product quality may be impacted. Some amount of overcapacity is typically built in during design. Rather than simply guessing a value, simulation allows for quantifying and fixing the level of over-design.

4. Optimize the layout. Alternative layouts can be quantitatively compared with a model so the best one in terms of operability and cost can be selected.

5. Determine staffing. When does it make sense to add another operator or another shift?

6. Optimize a laboratory. This may mean changing the layout, adding the right number of pieces of test equipment or streamlining operations.

7. Clean each piping segment. Cleaning in place could be a bottleneck in a complicated piping network.

8. Map material flow into a large facility. Raw materials must be moved from the warehouse for weighing and dispensing and then onto solution prep. If they are late, the buffer could be late, and the product batch may be impacted. Conversely, if materials are too early or the buffer prep scheduling is too conservative, extra inventory and associated costs could result.

9. Reduce costs. Understand all the elements of the cost structure. Where attention should be focused to reduce the cost? Is it focused on the easy way to change elements, or is it focused on the elements with the biggest impact.

10. Learn more about the process being modeled. During every simulation project, we (and our clients) have learned something new about the system being modeled. This insight often leads to unexpected improvements. As an example, one client was pleased to learn how to increase capacity by 25 percent without a costly capital project.

If any of these 10 items describes your manufacturing plant, consider process modeling and simulation as an efficient method of learning new ways to improve processes and operations. Models can be used to evaluate alternatives and justify the implementation of the most desirable options. Contact us to see how we can help.

Philip Lyman, director, process simulation, CRB, a CFE Media content partner. This article originally appeared on CRB's website.

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me