Finding Software Success with Automation – Part 1

Integrating manufacturing floor systems to ERP systems used to be reserved for the largest companies with the deepest pockets. Over the last 10 years more and more of our customers are taking advantage of integration projects to increase their efficiency and reduce error rates. These projects have ranged from very basic to complex, and have a varying ROIs depending on what is being automated. In part one of this series, we’ll take a look at two integration projects: Silo scale or meter integration and the finished goods scale.


One of the most popular integration projects takes place at the silo level, monitoring all of the incoming and outgoing dairy liquids: milk, cream, whey, and dairy blends are constantly monitored as they are brought in and shipped out of the plant. Traditionally, this information was captured by staff in the loading bays and relayed to the office via excel spreadsheet, or hand written on a piece of paper. This delay in information caused much of the production information to be at least a day behind in the company’s information system. Office staff was then forced to look at reports on production that happened yesterday or even further in the past as they reconciled their components and tried to mass balance their plant to determine efficiencies.


Automation happens during intake and unloading via one of two primary methods: scales or meters. We’ve had success with both approaches at over 50 of our customers. This success has been achieved with a variety of set ups – some of our customers have scales in the yard or a guard shack with a check in station, and others have a more simple approach. By working together with your scale / meter company we’re able to access the data and store it in a database allowing for a wide variety of reporting.


By integrating a scale to our Producer Payroll, Liquid Procurement, or Liquid Sales Modules more reliable real time information is provided to key staff members regarding not only the quantity of liquid, but its quality – and most importantly – its location. Records are automatically stored in the database as liquids move around between CIP cycles, ensuring that traceability is kept intact. For our customers, this process has provided more timely information, eliminated almost all paperwork, increased accuracy, and increased their level of comfort with traceability.


Another popular integration point is at the finished goods scale. Used primarily by our cheese and powder customers, finished goods integration is a slightly more complex integration project that usually involves a scale, labeling system, and sometimes a palletizer. There are several different ways to accomplish this integration. Production information can be fed from DSI to the scale and labeling system, so that DSI is dictating production information, lot codes, and gathering the scale information to generate labels with the labeling system. Conversely, in some of our customer’s installations that relationship is completely reversed where DSI is being fed information from a palletizer or scale labeling system. The key here is the ability to accomplish the same task a variety of ways depending on our customer’s needs.


By automating the finished goods side of things several things are accomplished. Labeling is automatic, aiding in better real time inventory tracking. The ability to capture real time reliable production data is also improved, as production yield reporting is available almost immediately following a production run completion. Traceability is automated and no longer reliable on the individual who is working at the end of the production line, increasing the company’s accountability for their product.


Integration projects can be large or small, but there is no doubt that they have had a positive impact for our customers. The benefits of tying multiple systems together to achieve a more consistent reliable standard operating procedure help employees both on the floor and in the office. In part 2 of our series on finding success with software automation, we’ll dive into automated inventory systems and liquid tracking throughout the entire production process. (coming in October).

Article by Thomas Filak.  For more information on software that can assist your production process, please contact Thomas Filak at 262-723-5726.