Detecting Manufacturing Inefficiencies With Asset Management Software

How asset management can streamline manufacturing processes and help meet the increasing demands of the food and beverage industry.

By Jerry Browning, IFS

With growing consumer demand for fresh and organic produce, food and beverage manufacturers are under increasing pressure to move faster and eliminate non-value-added work, making them leaner, more competitive and safer. This article explains how better asset management can streamline manufacturing processes and help meet the increasing demands of the food and beverage industry.

New product, new processes

Reconfiguring manufacturing processes can be a challenging task for companies that offer fresh products with short lifecycle. These changes can take months or even years to plan, especially if traditional operations lack the flexibility to quickly reconfigure to new operations or technologies. It can also be difficult for manufacturers experiencing rapid growth or ones involved in the acquisition and integration of new product lines into an existing portfolio.

There are five key steps plant and senior managers should take each time a new capacity or product is added:

  • 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 solution that encompasses or streamlines this entire process—producing a reliable costing for new productive assets can be drawn-out and unnerving.

A choppy start

Once management has given a capital project the green light, the proposal or bid document must be operationalized and turned into a project structure, bids for work and subcontracts must be let and the project executed through to handoff to operations.

However, it isn’t guaranteed that the project management software used to fulfil work quotes will be integrated with the system generating them. Project management software may also be unable to drive finished project data directly into asset and equipment structures in EAM software. This is vital for management visibility, as the data dictates maintenance activities and provide status, serviceability and projected cost of operating the asset over its entire lifecycle.

In the majority of asset management processes, there can be substantial non-value-added work if steps lack connection. But in some cases, EAM software which includes key modules of ERP software can provide the same type of configuration to asset-intensive environments as it does with lean improvements in manufacturing.

Lean, mean, management machine

In order to get products to market quickly while squeezing the cost of ongoing operations, food manufacturers should apply the concepts of digital transformation to their asset management program—specifically the configuration and installation of new assets.

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

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. There was no need to design from scratch as sizes, capacities, inclusion or exclusion of various components could be selected. The same functionality can also be used to automate asset management projects in enterprise systems.

Be prepared

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?

This means if a CFO requires information on the cost of increasing capacity or supporting a new product, the plant manager can turn around an accurate cost proposal almost instantly. 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.

Driving 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 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 it comes to selection, it’s important to get a demonstration of how the EAM software will 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 even the slightest amount of downtime in the food and beverage industry can significantly harm business.

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