Ways that Mescon has seen MES systems save money

Plant data can be turned into useful information to allow businesses to make decisions that save money. Mescon Engineers have seen this many times over the years that we have been involved in automation.

This article will show how Mescon have helped clients save money by implementing solutions best suited to the situation.  We are often aware of privileged and commercially sensitive information, so to protect the confidentiality of actual organisations, the following scenarios explore a fictitious manufacturing company, “MakeGlob”, who make “globs”.  Globs could be Chemicals, (Paint, Ink, Oil), Food (Cheese, Jam, Soup, Cordial), Body Products (Pills, Soap, Fragrance), or Pharmaceuticals. What a glob is in reality is irrelevant; the principles can be applied across various industries. Can you relate to any of these scenarios?

Case 1: Reduction in oversupply

MakeGlob make 20 kg blocks of glob. They put in a tracking system that recorded the weight, time and serial number of their blocks. Previously over many years, MakeGlob found that the most efficient way to meet weight requirements was to set the machine to deliver 19.5 kg blocks of glob, then top up necessary blocks to 20 kg. Results showed that 9 out of 10 blocks of glob needed to be topped up. 20 of these blocks were put on a pallet to be delivered to the customer. Typically the pallet had 405 kg of glob.

The reports that Mescon produced allowed MakeGlob to realize that they were over-delivering, and that the top-up process, being manual and time consuming, was a bottleneck in the production speed. They considered that not every block had to be 20 kg or heavier, provided that the average block weight on a pallet was 20 kg or more. As a result, MakeGlob decided that they could set the machine to deliver 20 kg blocks of glob, and as long as the average of the last 5 blocks was 20 kg or more, they did not need to top up. This solution:

  • Reduced the top up rate to 1 in 10 blocks,

  • Reduced the overall amount of top up glob required

  • Reduced the average pallet weight to 403 kg

  • Increased the production rate of glob

As with any traceability system, when a product recall was necessary, MakeGlob were now able to reduce this to designated pallets, rather than complete deliveries.

Case 2: Recall Reduction

MakeGlob manufacture a safety component to be included in the end client’s product. A traceability system was installed which tracked the components that went together in the assembly, along with assembly parameters such as nut torque, and test parameters such as pressure. Like any traceability system, the savings were realised when recall was necessary. MakeGlob could identify the specific parts that were affected, and only individual globs needed to be returned.

An interesting scenario occurred when we were called back to site; a faulty glob was returned that they could not find on the system. With some investigation into the log files and the history, we found a reference to the part as an R&D test part; it should have been returned to the laboratory and destroyed. MakeGlob quietly took the part from us, thanked us and paid the bill.

Case 3: Real-time Compliance Testing

MakeGlob make parts that undergo a suction and cooking process. The part is filled with GlobLiquid by a vacuum process, and then slowly brought up to temperature, hardened and slowly cooled. The pressure and times are critical to the quality process. Previously MakeGlob put the process data into a spreadsheet. The Quality officer would review the data, calculate key figures such as 'heat up time and rate', and, after a half-hour process, approve the part. The approval status was often days behind the actual manufacture. The installation of a custom MSSQL-based system provided the following benefits:

  • Collection of the data,

  • Review of the data when the batch was finished

  • Production of a report with all the key figures only took seconds.

If all the figures were excellent, the part was immediately passed and the operator informed. If the figures were bad, the part was scrapped immediately, and did not consume down-line resources and time. If the figures were close, the part was marked subject to review and the quality officer was emailed the report and the spreadsheet.  The operator was able to immediately decide whether to hold the part or allow it to move down the line depending on current production dynamics.

Case 4: Batch Manufacture Cycle reduction time

MakeGlob manufacture batches of glob in 5 tonne lots. Prior to the installation of the traceability system, the process involved adding 80% of the products, testing for component composition and then adjusting the amounts of the remaining additions to produce consistent glob.

  • Historical tracking ability enabled batch histories to be compared.

  • A more detailed analysis of raw product allowed MakeGlob to remove the need for mid-batch testing and the top up additions.

  • Adding 100% of the product at the start of the process significantly reduced the cycle time to produce a batch.

  • The complete manufacturing cycle time was reduced.

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