Finding Software Success with Automation Part 2

by Thomas Filak, Data Specialists, Inc.

Component Tracking with Successful Software Automation . . .

In part one of our series on automation success we discussed some of the smaller automation projects that our customers have undertaken to gain efficiency in their plants, with a focus on silo reconciliation and the finished goods scale. As DSI’s customer base has grown over the years, so have our integration projects. While many of our customers have seen success with the more traditional integration projects, others have pushed themselves to be on the cutting edge of dairy processing – with an intense focus on milk (and component) accountability, these customers have taken the next step –  pushing even further into integration projects.

One of the core competencies of the DSI system is our ability to track components and the affect that those components have on your company’s bottom line. This topic was thoroughly discussed in an article “Why Doesn’t Traditional ERP Fit the Dairy Industry” (Click Here). Taking this to the next level, several of our customers have tied their floor systems to DSI to provide more real time information on yields, shrink, efficiency, and traceability in every process zone of their plant.

Previously for many of our customers, production data was entered into DSI at the end of a production run, the next morning, or in some cases even several days later. The office staff became accustomed to making decisions based upon information that was old – evaluating production runs that were sometimes weeks old to determine efficiencies and losses. By integrating their production floor systems into DSI, this time gap is eliminated, providing staff with real time information only seconds behind what is happening on the floor.

In most cases, this is achieved by leveraging floor data systems – often the PLC / HMI controls that the operators are using to move milk throughout the plant. Tying these systems together also eliminates double data entry – removing a large portion of someone’s day, typing in data that had already been captured by another system. Error reduction is also a key in this process – it removes the requirement for the floor operators to write down production data and the chance that the office staff miss keys information based upon paper records received from the floor.

Mapping out this process and creating “zones” of control will aid your staff in understanding where milk losses are occurring, and where dollars should be spent. Rather than over automating the plant, creating these zones will save front end costs, as well as avoid overloading staff with unneeded data. Most of our customers will track their liquids from zone to zone, for a total of 4-6 zones, however we have customers that have gone to over a dozen process zones based upon their product mix. As milk moves through the plant both volumes and components can be reconciled in each zone, if desired. Certain areas (for example filler lines in a fluid plant) are always of interest based upon what would be considered “a known loss point.”

Breaking down the plant into various zones areas of loss become more apparent. By reporting on the various parts of the plant, management is able to pinpoint areas for focus on improvement – whether that be updating new equipment, changing standard operating procedures, or retraining employees. When the area of improvement involved changes in procedures or staff training, the feedback and statistics from the real time reporting play a pivotal role – feedback is immediate and can show if changes are having their desired effect.

Giving your dairy business the edge it needs to be profitable through good plant management is a key to your business’ success. Using automation and integration to combine the strengths of your plant floor and reporting systems is a powerful tool to help you achieve your goals. In the final part of our three part series, we will explore warehouse automation with barcoding systems and automated inventory control systems.

If you require more information on ERP manufacturing software, please feel free to contact Tom Filak at 262-723-5726.