Digitalizing Your Manufacturing Ecosystem

Making digitalization work for you requires understanding your manufacturing ecosystem. Standards, such as ISA-95, only guide you on a journey to more deeply comprehend the workings of your unique process for manufacturing your products.

A batch manufacturing ecosystem often includes campaign management. Campaign management is not mentioned in ISA-95 which only speaks generally of “order processing.” Campaign management is an example of applying the general concepts of ISA-95 to the specific needs of a batch manufacturing process.

Campaigns are groups of full and partial batches corresponding to the number of sellable units prescribed by the “order processing” function. Campaign management starts with determining, within maximum and minimum size constraints, the minimum number of batches to manufacture to satisfy the order. Digitalizing campaign management is often a quasi-custom effort, dependent on how orders are received from the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) package.

The next step is to schedule the required batches. Production scheduling, as it is called in ISA-95, is constrained by availability of required inputs, such as raw materials, minor ingredient kits, labor, energy, and, of course, equipment. Digitalizing batch scheduling can be complex, dependent on how many constraints are applied. However, efficient scheduling can add significantly to a process cell’s capacity. ECS helped a sauce manufacturer optimize scheduling to reduce cleaning time, adding almost 20% to the process cell capacity without additional equipment or labor cost.

When it is time to run a batch, the appropriate control recipe is created and delivered to the sequencing engine. The sequencing engine steps through the ordered recipe steps, commanding the control system to perform appropriate actions. As it works, the control system creates data, documenting what happens.

Quantities of both event-based and time-series data are valuable benefits of digitalizing your ecosystem. Data is used for many purposes such as quality control, meeting regulatory requirements, supporting raw and finished goods inventory management and driving process improvements.

The constraints of a blog article allow only a cursory overview of a typical batch manufacturing ecosystem. Standards are generalizations. Every ecosystem is uniquely complex. Comprehending your ecosystem is the first step to realizing the benefits of digitalization. Let’s go!

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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 ( 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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