Reaping The Rewards Of Updated Process Controls

By Mark Nagely

By Mark Nagely, Product Manager Process Controls

An investment with high return on investment is updating process controls systems. In plants throughout North America, there are functional controls systems which have been in place for 40+ years. Although proven reliable, they’ve been modified and updated so many times that accurate documentation is no longer available for the system. The manufacturing plant essentially runs on islands of automation, each with its own process controls system.

Companies with outdated process controls are vulnerable to the consequences of system failure and are unable to analyze total flow and effect of their processes. Why settle for productivity reports about each individual process? With today’s controls capabilities integrated into MES and ERP systems; it makes significantly better business sense to understand how all processes affect the others in real-time.

A well designed control system increases production efficiency. Updating process controls systems allows companies to integrate process with business systems.

  • Gain system-wide visibility into productivity
  • Streamline ingredient tracking
  • Automate manual processes

New technology allows access through both laptops and smart devices, which means that team members can get a quick picture of productivity and make adjustments in real-time from anywhere in the world. By fine-tuning sequencing, timing and other parameters, companies can squeeze out an extra measure of productivity that turns into extra profits and saves production time, labor, operating expense and wasted material with less scrap.

Streamlining recipe management with updated process controls eliminates the need to re-enter recipes both at a business level and again at the plant level. A tightly-coupled interface between the MES software and the control
system not only minimizes labor costs and time wasted between campaigns but—more importantly—drastically reduces the possibility for costly data entry error.

Six Things to Consider Before Upgrading Existing or Buying New Process Controls:

  1. Know your specifications for hardware and software. Determine your vendors first before choosing a process ontrol integrator. Some integrators are only able to accommodate specific hardware and software.
  2. Determine where your operators will be located. Will you engage a full-time employee for monitoring your ystem, or shift employees on the plant floor? Could the operator(s) utilize a mobile or tablet device?
  3. Recognize area classifications. Would any areas of the plant be classified hazardous or have potential for explosion? This will help determine the type of process control equipment chosen.
  4. Think about information and data that would be most helpful to decision makers. Your system is unique and should be customizable to provide applicable information in various formats to meet the on demand reporting needs of multiple individuals.
  5. Determine the level of visibility that will be awarded to each user. What information would you like available on the plant network? Which employees should be provided full control versus view only?
  6. Consider cyber security. Consider how firewalls will be implemented. 

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