Lean Manufacturing 306




Continuous Flow Systems Environment

The emergence and maturation of process-specific MRP II sys­tems over the past decade has encouraged many process compa­nies to implement MRP II as the centerpiece of their corporate CIM and ERP programs. For continuous flow manufacturers, a new MRP II system has a very specific role to play within a family of other existing systems which include:

• Computerized Process Control: Continuous flow manufac­turers have developed tremendous expertise in process control technology, and have installed a vast array of systems intended for real-time monitoring of plant activities. These include Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), Distrib­uted Control Systems (DCS), Programmable Logic Control­lers (PLC), Statistical Process Control (SPC), and expert systems. In order to keep the process conforming to tight specifications, adjustments are made continually based on readouts from analog and digital process controllers. In some cases, sophisticated Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) control loop tuning is used to keep temperatures and pressures within tolerance.

One of the points of confusion among software vendors as well as process manufacturers has to do with the proper role of MRP II in the process control arena. Specifically, what role do MRP II shop floor control (process operations control, execution) modules play in a continuous flow plant? The answer is, none! In continuous flow manufacturing, MRP II is strictly used to plan, to control inventory, to generate purchase requirements, and to cost. It is the function of installed process control systems to execute production. Work order-based MRP II shop floor control modules are a big turnoff to this industry, and understandably so.

In order for MRP II to function at a higher level, integration to process control is required to download formulas and recipes to support production, and to upload production counts and QC test results to support planning and management decision-making.

• Corporate Legacy Systems: Today's continuous flow manu­facturer is likely to be one of many plants within a division of a multinational coiporation. Plant ownership has probably changed hands over the years. Entrenched corporate systems on mainframes perform centralized functions like order entry, general ledger, receivables and payables, formulation, produc­tion planning, and some purchasing. Plant systems handle scheduling, shipping, receiving, inventory control, and quality control. For a new MRP II system to be effective at the plant, it must generate the necessary financial entries and reports to satisfy the corporate number crunchers, and yet give the plant operating autonomy to run local operations as they see fit.

For a new MRP II system to be effective at a corporate level, legacy systems must gradually be replaced. This process frequently involves downsizing from a mainframe to a series of midrange computers. From a functional point of view, MRP II must still accommodate the global corporate reporting hierarchy in a way that is not constraining, but empowering. This typically requires that the new system provide the follow­ing capabilities:

— Multiplant planning and forecasting

— Multicompany financial reporting

— Centralized or decentralized financials, planning, purcha­sing, formulation, and inventory control

— Multicurrency processing of orders, invoices, and pay­ments.

— Multiwarehouse inventory control

• Plant Operating Systems: Other systems commonly found in continuous flow manufacturing plants include Preventive Maintenance (PM), Laboratory Information Management Sys­tems (LIMS), logistics systems which support receiving and shipping activities, and document management systems. MRP II systems will not replace these, but will receive data from them and pass data to them. As the number of these supporting systems at the plants and at corporate grows, the MRP II implementation project begins to take on the characteristics of a systems integration project rather than just a straight-forward MRP II implementation.

• Regulatory Systems: Continuous flow process manufacturers are regulated by many government agencies for a variety of reasons. Systems are in place to ensure compliance to laws governing pollution controls, the handling and disposal of waste products, the use of hazardous materials, and the training and certification of employees. MRP II systems are frequently integrated with these systems to support report generation and to provide production history and transaction audit trails.

To be Continued


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