Digital transformation for food manufacturing — a recipe for success – Food Dive

Jerry Browning, a senior advisor at IFS North America, assists customers in asset intensive industries with knowledge transfer and consulting on enterprise asset management software.

Food and beverage manufacturers are under more pressure than ever to get products to market quickly, while squeezing costs out of ongoing operations. Historically, new food products that required additional or reconfigured processes took months or even years to plan, with the management of these projects dominating the time and bandwidth of plant management, maintenance and operations personnel.

Reconfiguring manufacturing processes at companies that offer limited edition or short lifecycle products, for example, can be an extremely difficult task. It can also be a challenge for manufacturers experiencing rapid growth or ones involved in the acquisition and integration of new product lines into an existing portfolio.

Each time a new product or new capacity is added, there are several steps plant and senior managers must take:

  • Identify the scope, specifications and cost of the new manufacturing line.

  • Let bids for relevant work.

  • Accept bids.

  • Manage the project through to hand-off and startup.

  • Create asset structures in enterprise asset management (EAM) software to support ongoing operations and maintenance of the equipment.

In many cases, there is no single software platform that encompasses or streamlines this entire process – just coming up with a reliable price for new productive assets can be time-consuming and daunting.

Potential for a bumpy start
Once a capital project proposal is started by management, that proposal or bid document must be operationalized and turned into a project structure, bids for work and subcontracts must be letand the project executed through to handoff to operations.

IFS North America

But the system used to generate that quote and execute on the project may not be integrated directly with the project management software used to perform the work once the quote is accepted. Project management software may also be unable to drive finished project data directly into asset and equipment structures in EAM software. This is vital, as this is the data that will dictate maintenance activities and provide management visibility into the status, serviceability and projected cost of operating the asset over its entire lifecycle.

In most asset management processes, all of these steps are disconnected, resulting in substantial non-value-added work. But in some cases, EAM software, which includes key modules of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, can provide the same type of configuration capability to asset-intensive environments as it does with lean improvements in manufacturing.

Digitally transforming food and beverage asset management

In order to become leaner and more competitive, food manufacturers must apply the concepts of digital transformation to their asset management program – specifically the configuration and installation of new assets – so they can move faster and eliminate non-value-added work.

Compatible unit functionality adds powerful asset configuration functionality to EAM, allowing users to build a reusable object structure  that can be tied into an asset management project. They can build this project to include details on materials, labor, contractors or subcontractor scopes, rental equipment and other elements necessary to calculate the costs for the entire project.

Some manufacturers have relied on this specialized ERP functionality that can streamline configure-to-order manufacturing processes. This has allowed the user to repurpose existing product structures and change key variables to configure a product to meet specific requirements. Sizes, capacities, inclusion or exclusion of various components could be selected, but there was no need to design the product from scratch. The same functionality can also be used to automate asset management projects in these enterprise systems.

Prior planning
For example, as you set up this system to streamline your asset management projects, you can enter information on the different variables of a work cell or manufacturing line so that as each individual project is planned, users will be prompted with questions that configure the design. To what extent can the requirements of a new line or work cell be defined by existing equipment and assets? How must the speed, capacity or capabilities differ based on the product to be manufactured? Does the environment the asset will be housed in influence the requirements?

If you are that plant manager and the CFO comes to you and wants pricing on how much it will cost to add additional capacity or support a new planned product, you can turn around an accurate cost proposal almost instantaneously. Once the proposal is approved by corporate, the software can send out the requisite work orders, send requests for quotations to contractors and enable maintenance department staff to put their time against the project as required. The system can also capture the cost of materials out of inventory to complete the project, all without additional administrative overheads or duplicate efforts.

Catalyst for change

The ability of EAM software to deliver lean improvements to key steps in the asset lifecycle depend on the inclusion of, and tight integration with, select ERP functionality – in this case, configure-to-order processes, contract management, inventory and human resources. A third-party configurator tool sold as an add-on or white labeled functionality will not be adequate as these usually rely on point-to-point integrations that will almost certainly fail to encompass all of the data points required to streamline the process.

When choosing your EAM software, it’s important to get a demonstration of how the system would facilitate all of your asset workflows and not just a select few. You will also want to ascertain how much vendor or third-party consulting time is necessary to configure the system, now and in the future as your needs change over time, as even the slightest amount of downtime in the food and beverage industry can significantly harm business.

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