International Paint adds EMI to its production IT palette
Rapid growth led to major capacity constraints at International Paint , a global supplier of marine and protective coatings, and an operating unit of Netherlands-based Akzo Nobel. As a result, it faced a crucial decision.
International Paint’s Houston-based plant was running three shifts a day—full tilt. Was it time to invest in expanded capacity, or use information technology (IT) to improve productivity from existing capacity?
In choosing the latter course, actions taken included unleashing productivity held captive by latencies in getting information from its data historian into printed reports. For actionable intelligence based on real-time visibility, International Paint implemented IncuityEMI, an enterprise manufacturing intelligence (EMI) solution from Incuity Software .
“With the old system, it took time to get operators information about how much material was in our mixing vessels, how long production cycle times were, and how many cans or drums were filled,” says Jean-Paul Scheepens, production manager. “Incuity gives us the information fast, and makes it easy to analyze by batch or shift. We weren’t necessarily looking for a dashboard, but getting one was a real plus.”
Recipes are downloaded from a QAD enterprise system to the production system, including supervisory control software. Incuity is linked to the production system via standard OPC connectors to access both historical and real-time production data.
The plant operates 13 mixing vessels and four filling lines.
“We’ve uncovered inefficiencies with end-to-end line studies—from incoming raw material to outgoing finished goods—using Incuity to look at cycle time data,” Scheepens says. “It’s not a problem gathering the data. The bigger question is, what are you going to do with it?”
Users say it’s easy to create and test key performance indicators (KPI) using real-time production data. The system then tracks the KPIs, presenting the context-rich results within a management dashboard that allows drilling down into process details. KPIs are tested, validating assumptions, and are easily modified as needed.
“You have to put considerable thought into it if you want meaningful, successful KPIs,” Scheepens explains. “It has to be something more than a gauge that says something is good or bad. A KPI means nothing if it’s not associated with a cause. We spent a lot of time defining KPIs and what was behind them. You need to understand that to take proper corrective action.”
Incuity tracks the weight of materials going into mixing vessels; the time they take to fill; weight of materials coming out; time between batches; filling line rate speeds; and weights for some 600 individual SKUs. Current annual production volume is six million gallons.
Line and shift managers analyze batch profiles by product category and shift. “Incuity allows shift supervisors to drill down into performance during the shift and see where problems are, to determine process actions that improve performance.”
In this way, International Paint slashed end-to-end process cycles 35 percent, improving productivity by a similar number in the first six months of the project. That made it possible for the company to comfortably eliminate its entire third shift while still boosting overall output.
“We’re gaining new insight to operations, but cycle-time reduction alone justified the project,” Scheepens concludes.