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Manufacturing Digitalization That Works

Though digitalization is a process that is often seen as great, the benefits are not the same for everyone. Asking how digitalization is going to benefit your organization may be important to your digital future.

Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), connected enterprise, and smart manufacturing, among others, are all descriptive of applying digital technologies to manufacturing. Often, digitalization is presented as so powerfully good that it just needs to be done, but most are generally skeptical, asking, “Exactly how is this going to help me perform better?”

ISA-95 describes an ecosystem common to manufacturing enterprises and plants. Part one— adopted in 2000—will officially be ancient in a few months. Yet, amazingly, it remains relevant, particularly to applying digitalization to manufacturing.

Certainly, the entire standard is worthy of comprehension, but the famous, functional enterprise-control model—identified as figure five in clause six with its associated descriptions in the remainder of that clause—provides a great place to gain some immediate value. Reviewing the described functions—and their relationships—while asking the questions, “How do we do this?” and “How might we do this better/faster/cheaper/digitally?” can bring a wealth of improvement ideas to life.

After a recent implementation of digital manufacturing technology “from one end of the plant to the other” in a food manufacturing plant, our client commented:

“With everyone seeing the same information and analyzing the same data; communication, productivity, and efficiency has been improved significantly. Supervisors are helping R&D with new formulations, material managers are helping schedulers understand order and inventory, and everyone is helping solve problems. In just a few months of production, [we have] created, controlled, and tracked hundreds of batches and dozens of products. The new system accelerates our speed to market for new products and improvements to existent ones, troubleshooting issues for quick resolutions, and supporting data for nutritional label declarations.”

This is digitalization that works, not just the ever-bigger data. This is making manufacturing more consistent, safer, and produce more profitably.

While you can purchase a copy of ISA-95 from the International Society of Automation (isa.org) and perform this simple exercise yourself, but you shouldn’t have to. World-class integrators can serve you as a trusted advisor in asking these questions and implementing offerings that make sense for you.

How might you get started? What parts of your manufacturing ecosystem make your life difficult? Is your organization using your manufacturing data for problem-solving? Seeking out answers to these questions from trusted advisors is how manufacturing digitalization can begin to work for you!

Timothy S. Matheny, P.E., is president of ECS Solutions, a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). He is also author of a paper on model-based control, presented to the ISA Food and Pharmaceutical Industry Division in 2014. To obtain a copy of Matheny’s paper, or for more information about ECS Solutions, visit its profile on the CSIA Industrial Automation Exchange.


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The Advantages of an Agile Cleaning System
There are many benefits to investing in an agile cleaning system. And though manufacturers may have to make an initial financial investment, the advantages that come along with it are as many as they are profitable.

ECS President, Tim Matheny, recently lent his expertise to AutomationWorld on the subject. Check out the full piece HERE!

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The Benefits of Batch Recipe Lifecycle Management
ECS President Tim Matheny is back and talking about the benefits of batch recipe lifecycle management on the AutomationWorld blog. Read to learn how a batch management package can reduce risk and help get products to market much quicker. #blog #automationworld #batchexperts #batchmanufacturing

Click here to read more!

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Tim Matheny Talks “Cooking to Kill” on AutomationWorld.com

In a recent article on AutomationWorld.com, ECS Solutions’ President & CSIA guest blogger, Tim Matheny shared his insights into the best manufacturing process for cooking.

Here is an excerpt from the piece:

Many of the ready-to-eat products that we consume today are cooked. Cooking kills pathogenic bacteria in food products. Cooking properly makes food safer to consume. The best manufacturing process for cooking a certain ingredient or product is the process that produces lethality as quickly as possible without adverse effect to the product.

Check out the full article HERE!

Nice work, Tim!

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Options for Dosing Genealogy

The following, written by ECS Solutions President Tim Matheny, was published in Automation World in April of 2019. The article can be seen HERE.

Batch manufacturing in Food and Pharmaceuticals requires knowing the genealogy, or history, of any ingredient materials. When the source container or vessel contains several lots of the ingredient material, the Control System Engineer must make some assumptions and do some math.

One choice, often referred to as plug flow, is to assume that there is no mixing between the lots—that they are stacked on top of each other in the vessel as if there were an invisible membrane between each consecutive lot. The control system assumes that until the volume or weight of lot “a” is dosed out, that lot, and only lot “a”, is being dosed. When lot “a” is gone, the control system assumes only lot “b” is being dosed. At most there will be one product batch with some of lot “a” and some of lot “b”. Risked recall cost, when this assumption is used, is very high because a significant number of batches/lots of product must be included due to the ridiculous underlying assumption. Generally, a plug flow assumption should not be used today.

Dosing genealogy might be determined by modifying the plug flow approach, assuming a band of mixing between consecutive ingredient material. Factors that affect the thickness of the mixing band include: how material is loaded into the vessel, the viscosity of the material, the shape of the vessel, time the lots have resided in the vessel, etc. Recall costs are appropriate because, in the case of a recall on ingredient lot “b”, only batches dosed from bands “a-b”, “b” and “b-c” need be recalled. This approach can be appropriate when ingredient mixing tendencies are well known.

A third approach assumes that the ingredient materials are fully mixed. Until the vessel is drained and cleaned, any dosing genealogy is assumed to include some of all ingredient material lots introduced into the vessel. When there is a long duration between drain-clean cycles, ingredient lot “a” is assumed to be in many product batches/lots, risking very high recall costs. Maintaining a short duration between drain-clean cycles is also expensive. Producers can be driven to designing a system utilizing single-ingredient-lot vessels or containers. This is a very safe approach that is often dictated.

A combination approach to determining dosing genealogy also assumes complete mixing of all ingredient lots in the source vessel. The dosing genealogy is assumed to be the percentage of each ingredient lot remaining in the vessel. Volumes removed for each ingredient lot are accumulated, much as with plug flow. At some small remaining amount, the ingredient lot is assumed to be completely removed from the vessel. This approach offers reasonable recall cost risk without necessitating drain-clean cycles, making it an attractive approach when the extremely safe third approach, above, is not dictated.

With only slightly more math, the Control System Engineer can determine dosing genealogy with any of these approaches while a new ingredient lot is being added to the vessel. Allowing material to enter and leave the vessel concurrently increases equipment availability and, often, overall system OEE.

A risk analysis process is used to choose how dosing genealogy should be determined in a specific situation. Factors mentioned above, and others, must be carefully considered. Producers who determine dosing genealogy appropriately balance risk and cost using engineering analysis to make the right assumptions and do the right math.


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Collaboration and Ratio Control

Mixing and blending of materials is a frequent, important process in the food industry and other industries, often with the final mixture required to contain a critical specific ratio of the components. The approach most often adopted is to control the flow rate of each component into the mixing tank to realize the specified ratio, a pre-defined flow rate ratio (i.e. 5:1)

In our experience, The Batch Brothers have noticed this approach can lead to problems, in that inevitable variations in the established flowrates will result in a ratio of the components in the final blend other than that specified.  By only implementing the flow rate ratios the system may reach the end of the blending process and end up with material that was not blended in.

The Batch Brother’s solution is to monitor the weight of each component remaining and provide a homogeneous blend based on the remaining weight ratios, this way the system is constantly correcting for ratio errors based on materials remaining and not just instantaneous flow rate. The flowrates Ratio setpoints are constantly calculated to maintain a ratio based on the ratio of materials remaining. This approach is particularly beneficial if the individual materials are not homogeneous, perhaps containing particles clumped together which may lead to instant flow errors.

The Batch Brothers also advocate a collaborative work culture so that information is available to all stakeholders. This collaboration implies that opportunities for improvement identified by any employees or provider should be expressed to the team and evaluated.

Batching Across America,
-The Batch Brothers


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CIP Made Simple

The Batch Brothers wondered…can you simplify the automation of Clean In Place (CIP) sequences…yep!

The automation of a manufacturing process today necessarily includes automation of CIP sequences.  The latter is often found to be more complex than making the products and final CIP sequences are frequently defined after the process equipment is built and cleaning tests completed.

The complexity of the CIP sequence arises from the availability of a wide variety of both cleaning equipment and cleaning solutions, such as water, caustic and acid.  In addition, it is found advantageous to recover water used in the final rinse step to reduce overall costs.

The Batch Brothers have developed an approach to make CIP automation straightforward while still providing ample modularity and flexibility. This approach relies upon the use of S88 concepts allowing the separation of the Equipment and Procedure models.  It is then possible to create procedures (Products and Cleaning recipes) after the process has been automated without requiring changes to the control system, all of which can be handled by non-programmers.  The approach easily allows optimization of the CIP recipes which results in both cost reduction and shorter times for the CIP process.  Furthermore, an equipment module is used to expose all parameters on the CIP skid side as well as the parameters required at the destinations.

The key to simplifying the CIP process is to set up equipment using an Equipment Module, this module being able to define all possible configurations in a simple modular matter. Application of the procedural role of S88 enables the specification of the sequence necessary to perform the required procedures.

Batching Across America,
-The Batch Brothers

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ECS Total Process Automation featured in AutomationWorld

Earlier this month, an article written by ECS President Tim Matheny was featured in AutomationWorld. Matheny discussed the Total Process Automation approach taken by ECS and how “The best control system integrators do not only automate the production equipment, they help to automate the entire manufacturing process.” By focusing on assisting the client with the whole process, integrators can not only help create and package goods more efficiently but also help the client increase their profits. The Total Process Automation approach used by ECS results in “an organization achieving higher quality, higher performance and higher profits.”

Click here to read the article and learn more about the Total Process Automation approach.

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Blending Ratio Control

We bumped into a client that indicated their process specified a particular material ratio (i.e. 10:1) of materials A/B on an In-Line pre-blender.  Additionally, the client also specified that an amount of A was required in the beginning and at the end of the blend since it was critical that material B could not be added by itself. In the past, the control system was programmed to control the ratio of the flows (as requested), where A was the Master and B was controlled to keep up to maintain the required Flow ratio. The Batch Brothers sensed some issues with this approach…

The problem they encountered was that upon completion of material B feed, too much or too little was left of Material A to flow solo as by requirements, this was due to the errors encountered by B trying to keep up with the Master Flow rate.

After better understanding the requirements the following solution was designed to ensure the best possible ratio control. Aside from the initial Solo of Material A (SiA) and final Solo of material A (SfA) addition required, the remaining amount of Material A (RaA) should be blended as homogeneously as possible with the required amount of Material B.

The Batch Brother’s Solution continuously calculated what the Ideal Flow ratio should be based on the actual amount of material remaining to be blended. By continuously updating this ratio the system could compensate for the errors incurred by not maintaining the EXACT ratio required as well as any error incurred in the addition of the initial solo feed of Material A.

The initial approach of maintaining a fixed Flow ratio setpoint did not allow the system to compensate for any errors incurred by the feed systems, by continuously recalculating the required ratio based on the amounts remaining, the system continuously corrects the setpoints and provided the most homogeneous possible product.

Problem solved!

Batching Across America,
-The Batch Brothers


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Material Delivery Optimization

We visited a client and determined that the production bottleneck for their process was the delivery of grain from silos. The client shared with us that their intent to upgrade the conveying equipment and that a large Capital investment was being requested…This was a clear opportunity for The Batch Brothers to step in!

After The Batch Brothers evaluated the existing system, we determined that a software approach could eliminate the existing bottleneck, without a large investment of Capital equipment. The batch system required multiple grains be delivered, only one grain was requested at a time, once that grain was delivered, the next one would be requested until all the grain required was delivered. The accuracy of these deliveries had been optimized and more than exceeded their tolerance requirements.

The systems characteristic that mostly affected the bottleneck was the distance the silos where from the weigh hopper. Once a Material was requested, the delivery delay from the time the silo gate opened until the first material reached the weigh hopper was of approximately 5 minutes. Once the amount remaining to be added to the hopper reached the “in transition amount” the system would command the silo gate to close, another 5 minutes would pass before the remaining material in the transport system would arrive to the weigh hopper.

The software solution consisted of requesting from the recipe the materials and amounts required, the system will then determine the location of each silo and prioritize the delivery based on the silo that had the smallest delivery time to the hopper. Now, instead of waiting for the completion of the material delivery the logic calculated when the next ingredient/silo gate should be opened to provide a predefined gap between the two ingredients, sometimes the second gate had to be opened before the first one closed.

Once the hopper determined that there was a feed gap and the amount required was near the required amount, then the logic considered this the end of the leading material and would consider the incoming material to be part of the following material requested. The system was designed to be able to specify up to 8 ingredients and their amounts.

In this case, the software automation system could provide another 5% production capability and eliminated the need to upgrade the grain transport system. With each bottleneck change, the process becomes more efficient. Software sometimes can cause that change and may also reduce the need to upgrade the hardware.

Batching Across America,
-The Batch Brothers

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