By Eric Heavin, System Consultant, Yokogawa Corporation of America
Sean Hodgson, Project Manager, Lubricant Solutions, Yokogawa Corporation of America
Marcus Tennant, Market Manager, Yokogawa Corporation of America
Many lubricant blending businesses find themselves in a challenging situation: there are opportunities to increase their overall business volume and profits by improving production flexibility, expanding their product slate and optimizing high-margin blends. At the same time, they find themselves constrained by current manufacturing limitations. However, launching a capital project for a significant manufacturing expansion may not be possible, and it may not be necessary.
The more practical answer is a program of manufacturing improvement to get more from your existing facility while minimizing additional investments. Throughput can increase without major capital expansions. There are two sides to such a program - integrated order processing and automated manufacturing operations - and together they affect the entire operation.
Lubricant blending is a relatively straightforward process and most manufacturing facilities do a good job of delivering quality products. The need to blend an off-spec batch into a lower-grade product is pretty rate. At the same time, few plants turn out as much product as they could. Here are some typical reasons:
Do any of these pain points sound familiar? This system works, but it does not support the highest volume or process flexibility most plants could realize.
Most lubricant blending businesses are largely manual operations. Sure, there is computer support, but order processing requires a high degree of human intervention. Orders come in through sales, and are entered into the system. Manufacturing orders get "cut" and issued to the plant, usually printed on paper. The interface with manufacturing is largely human. The scheduler/operator looks at the orders and selects the appropriate production sequence based on his or her experience.
Handling orders using this approach works, but it can be one of the major hurdles to growth. A more integrated system links sales, order processing and manufacturing into a single automated flow. There are various degrees of integration possible, so let's look at a fully realized example. Here's how it works:
Naturally the system allows for flexibility when needed. When human intervention is necessary to juggle schedules for some specific customer situation, it is available, but when operating correctly, it should be minimal.
Talking about an automated plant suggests a large operation such as an oil refinery, where a continuous process runs 24/7 making exactly the same product months and years at a time. Lubrication blending is different, but basic automation concepts still apply. Flexibility is important, and it should be a major consideration when designing an automation system. Batch manufacturing is very common in process industries, and there are many resources available, such as ISA88. This family of standards and practices has been used widely in a variety of industries.
Once a process has been more thoroughly integrated, let's follow how an order might be handled:
Ultimately, the plant's utilization is maximized and operators use their time efficiently and effectively. The total output and agility of the plant can reach new levels without extensive additions of new production equipment. Your people work smarter and become more productive, while profitability improves as more items on your product slate move into the high-margin category.
Implementing programs for these kinds of improvements can be handled incrementally. They can start in the plant, but more typically begin with the office systems and work their way to manufacturing. Existing plant equipment can normally be integrated along with new instrumentation and controllers.
The ultimate benefit is tightening up the fragmented elements of manufacturing resources. This is what unlocks companies to realize their full potential as they work to meet customer needs.
Unsere Prozessleitsysteme (PLS) ermöglichen die Automation und Regelung von Industrieprozessen und optimieren die Produktion von Unternehmen in der Prozessindustrie. Mehr als 10.000 Anlagen vertrauen zur Erreichung ihrer Produktionsziele auf das PLS von Yokogawa.