Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Production as a New Year Resolution: Digital Transformation Can Help
As we embark on a fresh new year, I took a moment to reflect on the conversations I had with food and beverage industry peers over the past months and look at what one of the new year resolutions could look like for the industry. Perhaps not “make more with less”, but “work smarter”.
Adopting advanced technologies as the way forward
Several long-standing manufacturing key performance indicators (KPI) such as Overall Equipment Effectiveness, plant downtime, and asset utilisation remain constantly top of mind. It is interesting to note that food and beverage manufacturers are adopting advanced technologies as the way forward to continuous improve these KPIs.
As mentioned in my previous blog, we can think of digital transformation as a maturity model to align people and processes with digital technologies. Using information technologies and software applications to measure and improve the efficiency of manufacturing processes and activities can bring phenomenal results - reduction in operating costs, shortened time-to-decision and increase in productivity.
If we are to classify broadly how digital transformation drive operational and business improvements for food and beverage manufacturers, I would sum it up as:
- Improve operational performance
- Safeguard quality, safety and compliance
- Maximise asset utilisation and reliability
- Increase recipe agility
- Enhance energy management and sustainability
Getting to the crux
Another observation I gathered is the common occurrence of what I call the “vicious cycle of production” among food and beverage manufacturers that does not improve performance and may even result in a dip in plant efficiency although they work harder or put in more resources.
Often, while the demand is growing, manufacturers find themselves in a challenging situation where they need more production capacity to fulfil customers’ orders in full and on time. An immediate remedy is to add production overtime and delay or shorten planned maintenance. Although this opens up more production capacity, it can lead to a higher probability of human error due to workers fatigue and equipment breakdown due to less reliable equipment which may eventually write off the efforts of opening up more production capacity.
At the same time while carrying out more rigorous continuous improvement activities, stretching the limits may just result in more efforts required to handle a higher volume of data and distracting new causes of performance losses. Without an effective information management system which enables ad-hoc problem solving and meaningful continuous improvement decision making, production performance takes a hit. Faced with a tight schedule and production volume commitment to adhere to, the pressure on production operations increases. And so the vicious cycle of production continues.
This is where food and beverage manufacturers can take advantage of advanced technologies to transform the way business is run. Advanced line performance management enables manufacturers to have visibility into causes of production losses and areas for improvement. Workers can take corrective action in real time and optimise resources utilisation in the aspects of human, equipment and materials - a short interval control concept from Lean Manufacturing. For multi-site operations, a Model-driven MES approach allows capturing of best practices and standardises KPIs for rapid deployment across the business. This enables consistent performance sustainability through operation governance, workforce empowerment and accountability. Only by addressing the crux of the problem can we break the vicious production cycle.
Ultimately, digital transformation is all about people, process and technology. It is not only about optimising equipment effectiveness, it is also about optimising operational efficiency enabled by people empowerment and collaboration across teams, systems and functional domains.
To learn more about how to uncover untapped line potentials to optimise productivity and capacity, join our webinar on March 6 with Food Engineering.
Keith Chambers is responsible for strategic direction, commercialization and development for AVEVA's operations management portfolio globally. Keith has over 20 years’ experience in the automation, software and MES business with a focus on manufacturing operations software in the food and beverage, CPG and life sciences industries.