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Enterprise batch records: Data collection

A commonly asked question about enterprise batch records is how do you get data into them? Many devices can be recruited for this, and once they are set up the benefits reap themselves.

By John Clemons July 8, 2014

I’ve talked before about enterprise batch records and I’ve received a good bit of feedback on the topic. Much thanks to everyone that’s shared their thoughts and ideas on the subject. One of the questions that I get a lot is about how you get all that data into the enterprise batch records. So, I thought I’d spend a little time talking about data collection.

When someone asks me about getting data into the enterprise batch records, the first thing I tell them is that they’re right. It’s a big chore getting all the data into the enterprise batch records, and the enterprise batch records are only as valuable as the data that they contain. So, it’s not easy getting the data into the enterprise batch records, and it’s going to take a variety of data collection tools and techniques to get all the data you want in the enterprise batch records.

Barcode scanners should be used extensively on the shop floor. This is especially true for material movements, material production, and material consumption. All industries are different, but the idea of having some type of barcode label on all materials that come out of or go into inventory just makes sense. It doesn’t matter whether it’s raw materials, work-in-progress (WIP) materials, or finished goods. A barcode label on the materials makes everything a lot easier.

At the very least, the materials can be scanned in and out of inventory, and can be scanned when materials are produced and when they are consumed. The materials can also be scanned when cycle counts or physical inventories are performed. And all of this information—especially the production and consumption information—can all go automatically into the enterprise batch records.

Like barcode scanners, there are a lot of other handheld devices that can be used to collect data on the shop floor and feed the enterprise batch records. For example, in many industries it’s necessary to record the temperature of the product at various stages of the manufacturing process, and even to manually confirm the temperature with certain checks. In these cases, using a handheld temperature probe attached to a small handheld wireless device is a simple and easy solution. And these devices can feed this data automatically into the enterprise batch records very easily.

Of course, data can and should be collected automatically from any and all systems that are out on the shop floor. Whether it be programmable logic controllers (PLCs), distributed control systems (DCSs), human-machine interfaces (HMIs), supervisory controls and data acquisitions (SCADAs), or even manufacturing execution systems (MESs), it really makes sense to collect as much of this data as automatically as possible, and feed it directly into the enterprise batch records. And, if you don’t need or don’t want to duplicate the data that’s stored long term (like in an MES) you can just link the enterprise batch records to the data and achieve the same result. And if you have one or more historians out there, then by all means link to that data or, if you need to, summarize the data and include the summary information in the enterprise batch records. And finally, you should also be able to automatically collect data from any external systems that you might have.

In some instances you may need to have some manual data collection going on as well. It may be old school, but electronic forms still make a lot of sense for data collection. The electronic forms can be implemented on a variety of devices, such as terminals, laptops, tablets, or smart phones. You may not have thought about the idea of everyone on the shop floor having a smart phone and entering manufacturing data into it, but it’s really pretty easy, it’s pretty cheap, and it makes a lot of sense. Regardless, whether it’s a PC, tablet, or smart phone, there are a lot of ways to get the data and feed it into the enterprise batch records.

One concept that makes all this work doing data collection a whole lot easier is workflow management. Workflow management is simply the idea of managing the tasks or steps in a process in a particular order and/or at a particular time. What it means for data collection is that workflow management can specify where and when the data is collected. It can also guide the operators through their data collection steps (even on tablets or smart phones) and it can ensure that all the data gets into the enterprise batch records, and if there’s data that’s missing or steps that were missed it can flag that as well. All in all, it’s a powerful concept for directing the data collection efforts to make all the data gets collected when it should be.

Hopefully that gives you some ideas about data collection and enterprise batch records. Enterprise batch records are only as valuable as the data you put in them. And, that can make data collection seem like a daunting task. But, it’s really not that hard. You can use tools like historians, barcode scanners, handheld devices, and even tablets and smart phones to make it all a lot easier. And you can use workflow management to manage how and when it’s all done. So, in the end, all the data goes into the enterprise batch records and that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

Thanks for letting me tell you about enterprise batch records and data collection. Until next time, good luck and have fun.

This post was written by John Clemons. John is the Director of Manufacturing IT at MAVERICK Technologies, a leading automation solutions provider offering industrial automation, strategic manufacturing, and enterprise integration services for the process industries. MAVERICK delivers expertise and consulting in a wide variety of areas including industrial automation controls, distributed control systems, manufacturing execution systems, operational strategy, business process optimization and more.