Achieving manufacturing operational excellence is important to most chemical and process manufacturers—but what does this look like in practice? Between fulfilling orders, maintaining compliance and keeping customers happy, it can be hard to gauge the impact of operational changes and know where to invest your time and resources to make improvements.
With 40 years in the industry, we’ve learned a thing or two at Datacor about manufacturing operational excellence. By following some best practices, companies like yours can improve processes, boost their competitive advantage and raise the bottom line. With our enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, you’ll keep performance at its best with minimal effort.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to achieving operational excellence, including:
- What is manufacturing operational excellence?
- Automate demand planning
- Optimize work center scheduling
- Increase accuracy and efficiency in production staging
- Use a tablet or reader to track and record each step of production
- Link production with equipment on the floor
- Conduct a post-production and quality review
What is manufacturing operational excellence?
Manufacturing operational excellence is achieved by continually improving processes, identifying problems and reducing defects in order to increase performance; boost quality; reduce labor, inventory and lead time; lower costs; and raise the bottom line.
ERP software for chemical and process manufacturers, such as Datacor ERP, utilizes tailor-made functionality to automate common tasks, increase efficiency, centralize information and integrate business processes, so you can achieve operational excellence goals and benchmarks quicker and easier.
Following a few best practices can help chemical and process manufacturing companies consistently achieve operational excellence. This framework helps businesses focus on growth and stay ahead of the competition. To improve operational excellence at your chemical and process manufacturing or distribution company during each stage of production, follow these steps:
Automate demand planning
If you’re producing something, you should have a compelling reason why. Rather than simply making a batch of something every month because it’s what you’ve always done, you should always be producing goods either to complete an order that’s already been placed, or to replenish stock with the quantities you expect to sell.
Good demand planning can help you project these quantities, directly tying demand to production. For example, if you typically sell 1,000 drums of a chemical each month and you have zero in inventory, then you know that to fulfill the month’s supply, you’ll have to produce 1,000 drums. In order to do that by month’s end, you need to know what ingredients or materials are required, in what quantities and when they need to be bought.
Specialized software such as Datacor ERP offers material requirements planning (MRP) functionality that helps improve demand planning by calculating and automating key aspects of purchasing and production. (Learn more in our guide to MRP software.)
Optimize work center scheduling
Once you’ve conducted MRP and ordered your raw materials, you’ll need to schedule what equipment needs to be used, and when, during each step of manufacturing. To perfect this process and increase manufacturing efficiency, companies typically schedule the production of similar products back-to-back in their work centers. In Datacor ERP, you can easily optimize and visualize this kind of scheduling using Gantt charts.
For example, if your company is making a white latex paint in Tank 1, you’ll want to schedule the production of progressively darker shades of a similar paint type in that same tank; that way, you don’t need to stop and clean the whole tank in between each production run.
However, if you’re making white latex paint followed by a dry powder coating, then you’ll either need to make the coating in Tank 2, or fully clean and sanitize Tank 1 before beginning production. This is especially important when working with natural and organic products.
With Datacor ERP’s master production scheduling (MPS) functionality, you can create and adjust schedules and timelines for multiple production resources within one graphical, drag-and-drop interface. It allows you to manage multiple products strategically, whether by reserving separate work centers or utilizing scheduling rules that book similar products back-to-back, along with blocks of time for cleaning and sanitizing.
Increase accuracy and efficiency in production staging
After scheduling production, but before it begins, you’ll need to stage the chemicals for each production run. Just like baking a cake, this stage involves gathering all the ingredients that go into the finished product so there’s no inefficiencies between steps.
Software with wireless barcoding helps achieve operational excellence in staging. These systems enable a mobile device, such as a forklift-mounted tablet, to direct you to the exact lot and bin location where you’ll collect and stage the materials. Datacor ERP’s barcoding features will even alert you if you select the wrong material or lot number, ensuring accuracy through real-time error checking and protecting your bottom line—preventing costly mistakes caused by mixing the wrong ingredients.
The software also optimizes picking to get materials into staging quickly and strategically, planning the most efficient route through the warehouse to the work center.
Use a tablet or reader to track and record each step of production
Continuing with the baking analogy, after you’ve arranged your butter, flour, and sugar on the kitchen island, you’ll need to follow the recipe for making the cake. For chemical and process manufacturers, your “recipes” may include steps such as heating and sanitizing a tank or adding a certain amount of raw material at a given stage.
To achieve manufacturing operational excellence at this stage, follow the instructions using a tablet or reader that includes biometric verification, such as a thumb reader or retina scan. This ensures the right person is completing each step.
Users can record processes, temperatures and status updates, such as “cooking” or “cooling,” on the tablet or reader, along with labor, overhead, time, ingredients, and other variables that impact cost. If approval is needed for a certain step, this can be built into the process or workflow, too, along with biometric verifications for the correct supervisor.
Datacor ERP’s mobile functionality reflects real-time production statuses for all users, offering a granular, step-by-step view of what’s being done. This not only ensures accuracy, but allows the operator to determine whether changes are still possible if a customer calls to adjust the order mid-production cycle.
Link production with equipment on the floor
One fail-safe way to achieve operational excellence is by integrating production capabilities with equipment on the plant floor. Specialized software such as Datacor ERP offers this functionality out of the box, eliminating the potential for human error and increasing efficiency.
For example, if you’re using a weight scale in production, and there are 300 pounds of an ingredient in each batch, that scale can be programmed to shut off the valve and stop filling once it reaches the 300-pound weight threshold.
When pursuing operational excellence, your production equipment should be “talking” with your ERP software. Whether they’re scales, as described above, process control units (PLCs) or flow meters, your machines are constantly recording valuable information needed by the ERP software. If this data is read and manually keyed in, you may end up with data-entry errors or issues related to timing.
After closing production, costs and inventories are automatically updated, enabling accurate inventory control and planning. Often, produced and purchased product lots are initially put on a quality hold or quarantine while testing occurs. Once approved, they become available for sale or consumption.
Conduct a post-production and quality review
Under a continuous manufacturing process improvement plan, companies will review each batch of production, analyzing yields, scrap, byproducts, waste and other factors to determine overall efficiency. Poor-performing batches should be recorded with a non-conformance corrective action. This assures that you aren’t making the same mistake multiple times.
Quality control test results should also be studied and plotted over time. This trend analysis will alert you as to when formulas and recipes may need to be modified or updated. With a continuous focus on how to improve and do things better, you will be headed toward operational excellence.
Datacor ERP makes it easy to achieve operational excellence with functionality for unifying business data, automating key tasks and streamlining operations—and it’s all designed with the needs of chemical and process manufacturers in mind. To see how this works, schedule a free demo.