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Batch Management Software: Upgrade for Flexibility and Uptime

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October 27, 2020

By Jamey Geer, Batch Product Manager, Rockwell Automation

Consumers want variety – and they want it now. A stroll down the aisles of the grocery store is all it takes to realize just how many choices are becoming available, from snacks and beverages to shampoos and medications. With tight competition and a demanding market, the need for manufacturers to provide a wide array of choices is here to stay. Not only is variety the spice of life – but it’s becoming mandatory to stay competitive.

Whether you’re a craft brewer, soap company, pharmaceutical company or food producer, you know that this trend is not going away. It’s exciting to be able to offer new, seasonal formulations that create buzz among customers.

But it’s not easy. It takes a commitment to creativity and innovation – and the technology to make it happen. In order to keep up with demand and prepare for the future, batch and hybrid manufacturers are faced with the need to increase flexibility while controlling costs and mitigating risk.

Batch Flexibility is King

For decades, manufacturers have relied on batch execution software to manage the automated portions of their production, providing some level of flexibility. But today’s manufacturing environments need more flexibility than ever, so requiring stoppages in production to make changes is no longer an option.

The challenge for manufacturers with older systems is that in order to add new equipment or make process changes in general, the batch server has to be shut down or slowed. This halts or limits production, creating production bottlenecks. Another issue with a server that isn’t running is that data and record collection is impacted – in regulated industries, it’s crucial that data collection is accurate.

In addition, managing product variations often requires creation of multiple recipes that use the same set of steps with slightly different ingredients or formulations. This adds a layer of additional work managing formulations, limiting the potential for product diversity.

In today’s modern systems, there is so much data that presenting relevant information to an operator at the right time is increasingly important. Overloading operators with irrelevant or not actionable data can introduce delays, reduce comprehension, and increase errors.

The Benefits of a Batch Modernization

Modern batch software could be the answer to many of the problems that help prevent producers from having the agility needed to meet market demand. The latest releases of batch software can help in three big ways.

  •    –   Improved uptime. Updated software enables you to make area model updates and changes such as updating equipment and modifying capabilities without having to restart the server and without requiring that batches be held. This is a huge deal for producers that want to switch between many different recipes without impacting production. Having the increased flexibility to add new equipment and improve throughput enables the addition of new products or variations of a product. In regulated industries such as biotech or pharmaceuticals, this ability is particularly important as modifications and minor updates to the system can be made that do not impact data collection.
  •    –   Reduced recipe management. Whether you’re producing medications, laundry detergent, sandwich cookies, or beer, the ability to quickly and easily reuse recipes for variations of products is increasingly important. Those slight formulation changes to flavor, scent, color and ingredient – that otherwise utilize the same process – make it easy to introduce variations of a product. A formulation management system that reduces the total number of recipes with parameter sets allows producers to use the exact same process for recipes with slightly different ingredients.
  •    –   Modern, intuitive operator interface. The prevalence of mobile devices in everyday life means that there will be an immediate comfort level for operators using this sleek, mobile-enabled interface – and that they will need far less training to become proficient. With an interface that is more readable and has a cleaner design, operators will be able to focus better, work faster and make fewer errors. Also, this interface is context-driven, meaning it presents the user with the right information at the right time, providing clarity for operators when they need it most.at the right time, providing clarity for operators when they need it most.
Modern Technology for Enterprise Integration

We’ve covered some of the modernizing benefits of a batch software upgrade for the production area, but let’s look the larger picture. Upgrading batch software will also help you take the next step in your digital transformation journey.

A modern intuitive interface included in some of the latest batch software introduces sustainable technology that helps reduce the overhead maintenance of the system, allowing it to run on multiple platforms and providing visualization across devices and form factors.

Enterprise integration allows producers to connect batch manufacturing processes to their web-based enterprise systems, enabling control from the outside and real-time data. As the roles of ERP and MES systems in manufacturing grow, integration between them is becoming more common.

There’s a workforce-related upside to these technology upgrades: committing to newer technology improves user workflows and production efficiency. Intuitive technology reduces onboarding and training time for new and seasoned workers alike. The latest batch software can also help reduce scheduling downtime for maintenance, human error associated with entering formulations, time spent on recipe management and the time spent by engineers having to maintain multiple recipes.

Flexibility and Agility for the Win

As trends in consumer demand for variety continue to rise, producers face tighter turnaround times to create and introduce new products and recipes. To stay competitive, manufacturers that prioritize flexibility and agility – the ability to add and remove equipment and to create variation in products – will be best positioned to rise to the top.

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