Tracking manual discrete manufacturing processes can greatly benefit from off-the-shelf products.
Often, discrete manufacturing processes requiring a high level of manual operator activities that rely on paper-based Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to specify how to manufacture their products.
Operators are responsible to perform the tasks as specified by the SOP as well as capturing the required data when requested. It is not uncommon to find plants that have automated components of the manufacturing process but require the operators to input the setpoints before initiating the required tasks. These operators are also responsible for capturing the required data and writing it on the SOPs, some of these SOP steps require capturing a date stamp as well as information of the person that performed a task or captured the data. Some customers require tracking these activities with more reliability and would like to capture information with much greater granularity.
Standard off-the-shelf products can be used to replace the paper-based SOPs and interface with the operators electronically via portable devices such as phones, iPads, industrial portable terminals, etc.
The procedures are clearly specified electronically, and a sequencing engine is responsible for prompting the operator to perform the tasks in the order specified by the electronic SOP. The off-the-shelf sequencing engine contains features that streamline the process such as the availability and traceability of the materials as well as equipment arbitration required to manufacture the products.
Where the system permits the sequencing engine can transfer the required setpoints to the pieces of equipment as well as capture process information instead of relying on the operators.
The sequencing engine is now the orchestrator of the process activities and is responsible for interacting with the operator, to instruct them to perform manual tasks and capturing information not available electronically; at the same time, it coordinates all activities with the equipment it can interact with.
This off-the-shelf sequencing engine can be interfaced with the ERP system in order to receive production orders, it clearly specifies and maintains SOPs and their versioning, it coordinates all manual and automated procedural activities, and it captures all pertinent information to recall how a product was made including material traceability. Clearly specifying procedures, enforcing their execution, and capturing all pertinent data are major benefits that can be obtained by implementing an off-the-shelf procedure management software.