Improving asset, materials management with ERP system

A materials science company contracted a system integrator to help them develop and implement enterprise resource planning (ERP) system as well as a manufacturing execution system (MES) that could work together and improve operations.

By Inductive Automation February 23, 2023
Courtesy: Inductive Automation

Grantek created a solution for SiO2 Materials Science, which was scaling up its production process and also investing in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. To get maximum value out of the ERP, they wanted to implement a manufacturing execution system (MES) to improve work-order handling and reconciliation.

The solution allowed SiO2 to reduce the number of ERP workstations needed by about 20. This led to significant savings in licensing costs, hardware costs, and IT operating expenses moving forward. Return on investment is expected within one year. The project was delivered in approximately one year, from requirements-gathering to commissioning. Grantek also helped SiO2 develop requirements; handle work-order management, original equipment effectiveness (OEE) and recipe management that would be tied into the ERP system.

Bringing in analytics to the ERP system

While investing in a new ERP system, SiO2 did not want to create new, paper-based procedures. Also, new ERP clients were very costly to implement. And the site had no OEE system or production dashboards that would indicate to management how the facility would operate.

The company also was expanding and bringing on new pieces of equipment. It was important for it to develop not only the infrastructure to support this growth, but well-designed templates that make it easy to add machines.

SiO2 currently has 41 machines in its operating environment with plans to add 10 machines in the coming year. Because of the rapid growth, the system needed to be designed for the future as well as the present.

Grantek began this process with a discovery session. This session allowed the two sides to collaborate on all of the functional requirements of the MES system, which allowed SiO2 to achieve its business-level goals defined by the ERP blueprint.

From there, Grantek developed an MES system using modules. The bulk of the solution was using a business connector module along with web services to directly interface with ERP system. Grantek also developed OEE templates that allow SiO2 to monitor performance on all 41 of its operating units.

The OEE template can report downtime reasons to the system, and it’s also fed into the ERP system for financial analysis. Scrap reasons are automatically tracked where possible but can be manually entered as well, with security.

This screen shows statistics for the system’s 390 alarms. Courtesy: Inductive Automation

This screen shows statistics for the system’s 390 alarms. Courtesy: Inductive Automation

A template was developed that allows SiO2 to send information to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to incorporate MES logic into their machines directly and as part of the request for proposal (RFP) process. This allows for reduced development costs and a new machine can be brought online in just a couple of hours.

The recipe module was deployed to ensure that the correct recipe as defined by the ERP system is loaded to the machine that the work order is assigned to.

As a bonus, SPC was implemented on a new, fully automated line with a rapid startup because the infrastructure was already in place. Having already had the MES infrastructure and area model developed, the integrator added 100 points of measurement to an SPC system.

Project results

Work-order tracking was implemented on 41 machines with various degrees of automation. This new system tracks downtime, scrap, and handles the quality sampling plan.

MES was brought online in parallel with ERP, which was challenging. However, this timeline allowed SiO2 to not have to develop intermediary standard operating procedures (SOPs). It also helped with paperless manufacturing from an early stage.

The system reduces operator training; MES handles the bulk of interactions, allowing operators to focus on running machines. Inventory accuracy has been improved, which is extremely important as SiO2 scales up production.

Some of the lines are FDA-regulated (and all of the lines are audited by customers who are FDA-regulated). Though the MES system is not considered a system of record, special considerations were made in terms of ensuring data integrity.

This screen shows details about the status of each of the water systems. Courtesy: Inductive Automation

This screen shows details about the status of each of the water systems. Courtesy: Inductive Automation

– Inductive Automation is a CFE Media and Technology content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology,

Original content can be found at Inductive Automation.