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A Batch Solution to Address Immediate Needs and Future Improvements

A bread supplier for one of the biggest sandwich-shop chains in the US found itself in a pickle when the computer system running its custom batch management system (BMS) reached the end of its useful life. The quandary was that the BMS was not designed to work with a newer Windows operating system, which any new computer would be running. Going back to the OEM that designed the BMS was not an option, since the OEM had since moved on to a newer custom solution, and the individual who had developed the bread supplier’s custom BMS was no longer around. Faced with a failing computer system and obsolete BMS software – either of which could easily cause a costly production shutdown if it suffered a failure – the bread manufacturer started looking for a BMS alternative.

Once burned, twice shy: Moving from custom to COTS

There was no question that the bread supplier’s next solution for batch management would be a commercially off-the-shelf (COTS) BMS, rather than a custom system. After all, going with a custom approach is what left the company in the tough position of not being able to upgrade the BMS or the likely-to-fail computer on which it was running. The company found Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk Batch to be a solid choice to replace the custom BMS and accepted Rockwell’s suggestion to have ECS implement the new solution. ECS modified the manufacturer’s original ControlLogix PLC code to interface with the new system and then installed, commissioned and provided startup services onsite.

Taking advantage of the opportunity to improve productivity

ECS was probably not the only systems integrator with the technical ability to design and set up the manufacturer’s new BMS solution. But ECS was the one that was able to go far above and beyond simple implementation to enable significant business improvements. Rather than narrowly defining the scope of the project as just migrating to a new system, ECS took advantage of the opportunity to make productivity improvements to reduce customer costs and increase capacity over time. ECS specifically altered the existing system logic to more efficiently utilize the equipment, reducing cycle time and increasing equipment availability and plant capacity by 20%.

The productivity payoff

With the 20% increase in existing system availability and capacity, the manufacturer has been able to substantially increase production and revenue. This in turn has made it possible to delay the addition of a second manufacturing line, which would have required a major capital expenditure. After realizing these benefits, the company contracted with ECS to roll out its model-based Total Process Automation approach to gain additional efficiencies and flexibility.

Additionally, the commercial off-the-shelf, ISA-88 compliant, batch management system made is significantly easier and less costly to add new products than with the OEM provided solution ECS replaced.

Posted In: Case Studies