Supply Chain Management with realtime connectivity of processes

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By Pat DixonVice President of Automation at Pulmac Systems International & Hannes Rosskopf, Principal Customer Success Manager at flexis North America.

As soon as a production facility receives orders of varying urgency that require different materials and manufacturing requirements, vertical integration and real-time connectivity of processes become paramount. In the age of Industry 4.0, this connectivity creates visibility for all stakeholders, integrates advanced analytics, and goes beyond traditional ERP systems.

Orders can vary in size


Imagine you have a paper machine producing 50 different grades.
To ensure timely customer order fulfilment, you need to have the right grades in the right amounts in your warehouse, or the production capacity to produce those orders on your machine.
Each of those grades can require different raw material (e.g., hardwood, softwood, fillers, etc.) and equipment (e.g., coaters, refiners, etc). Some customer orders are periodic and predictable while others are urgent. Orders can vary in size. You also want those orders sequenced in production so that your grade changes are managed for minimum disruption; a small basis weight on uncoated sheet change is easier than a large one with coaters added.
As the number of grades produced and the orders filled on your paper machine has grown, there had been an exponentially growing challenge to optimize the sequencing of your 50 grades on the machine for cost and production efficiency. Additionally, the shareholders do not like it when too much capital is tied up in an inflated warehouse inventory, while on the other hand customers expect an on-time delivery of any order. How do you meet expectations and stay competitive?

The importance of real-time connectivity


To further complicate matters, what if there is a mechanical failure on your machine that will take you offline for an extended period? Are there other mills with the grades in their warehouses to meet orders scheduled for your machine? If not, are there other machines that are available and have capacity to fill your orders? How much time will it take you to shift orders? Will it be possible to re-schedule the production of the orders to minimize the impact on customer deliveries?
In the Industry 4.0 era, the vertical integration and real-time connectivity of processes (mainly corporate planning processes and execution) is the key. This connectivity creates visibility to all stakeholders, integrates advanced analytics and moves beyond traditional ERP systems which forces a collaboration between business and IT leaders to the benefits of customers, shareholders, production and planning staff, and other stakeholders. Automation at this level optimizes the utilization of your staffing and provides real-time responses to disruptions.
For example, an Asian car manufacturer allows the dealerships in the US to see the planned vehicle production and gives them the option to place orders against the production plan with any desired changes (e.g., red instead blue color) and provides the dealers real-time information on the impact of such a change.


Industry evolves and progresses


The integration of Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) with Supply Chain Management (SCM) allows the production facilities to have the required raw materials at the right time in inventory and deliver the cars to the right location as expected. Any disruption from raw material supply, equipment availability, or new rush orders is detected by the system. A new production schedule is automatically produced to meet objectives, which include cost-efficiency, facility capacity, and resource workload.
As our industry evolves and progresses, we will start to see more of this capability on all levels along corporate, production, and automation processes. The paper industry is on its way to extending real-time automation and optimization from the plant floor to the top of the enterprise. This will ensure that the 50 grades on your machine will be managed to meet orders from your customers and reward stakeholders.


The authors
By Pat DixonVice President of Automation at Pulmac Systems International & Hannes Rosskopf, Principal Customer Success Manager at flexis North America. They have both extensive experience in Supply Chain Management and Supply Chain Planning Solutions.