Process manufacturing is defined by Gartner as “manufacturing that adds value by performing chemical reactions or physical actions to transform materials, or by extracting, mixing, separating, or forming materials in batch or continuous production modes.”
Batch manufacturing mode occurs when production is finished in lots of various size, with lots queued from one process step to the next. Typically, workflow in batch manufacturing is defined by function (e.g., painting, welding, fabrication, etc.).
Key Software Requirements Specific to Batch Processing
Manufacturing sectors that create product in batches need operations management that accounts for batch processing. Each batch must be optimized as a separate process according to the specific requirements of the batch.
Batch and Recipe Management
Batch and recipe management software helps ensures batches are:
- Executed at peak efficiency
- Assigned proper equipment
- Based on set precise parameters
- Automated and adjusted per recipe
The software coordinates with plant control systems, interfacing with operators to direct batch activity and material flow, and standardizes processes across the enterprise.
Batch events will prompt digital workflows (e.g., for signoff procedures or corrective actions in case of non-conformance). The software also records all activity to a historical database for documentation purposes.
Lot Tracking and Traceability
Lot tracking from raw material through finished goods is essential for process manufacturing. To understand why, simply consider the numerous recalls in various industries that have been publicized in the press. These affect the brand as well as the bottom line.
When a product that has been shipping for years is subject to a recall for a quality defect, the pressure is immense to complete a successful recall as fast as possible. To do this, companies need information fast, which is something they can get from a reliable lot traceability system. The first step in damage control is to completely understand the root cause of the problem.
Many times the fault lies in one of the raw materials used to manufacture the product. In that case, strong lot tracing functionality can be the difference between recalling millions of items versus recalling thousands or less.
With an effective lot traceability system, process manufacturers have a way to track problem goods from the customer all the way back to the supplier who sent the raw materials and all stages in between.
Quality Inspection and Reporting
In this era of increasing consumer scrutiny, governmental regulation, and headline-making recalls, process manufacturers must have efficient and effective quality procedures in place. Increasingly, they rely on process manufacturing enterprise systems to help track, trace, and monitor manufacturing from a quality and supply chain perspective, ensuring that products are made to quality specifications.
In businesses that require corrective action to be rapid and effective, advanced query capabilities are needed to allow for effective data analysis. Coupled with real-time reporting, this facilitates the identification of root causes that threaten quality.
Moreover, this software can be leveraged to manage inspection of materials on receipt and performance and qualification of suppliers.
Regulatory and Compliance Management
For batch process manufacturers in industry sectors that are heavily regulated by governmental and industry agencies, enterprise software solutions that address regulatory and compliance issues are essential.
Solutions that provide end-to-end lot and serial traceability and embedded quality management (complete with electronic signatures, audit tools, and secure document control) can provide manufacturers significant relief—as well as cost and time savings—from the constantly changing and increasingly stringent regulatory environment.
Inventory control may be the single most important factor in improving plant efficiency, part and materials accuracy, and ultimately, the bottom line for for batch process manufacturers.
From reducing physical inventory time to improving supplier communication or from tracking outsourced parts to forecasting necessary materials, effective inventory management software helps solve today’s increasingly nuanced supply chain challenges.
Advanced inventory management provides the functionality to store, track, and fulfill orders based on real-time inventory information from the manufacturing floor, the warehouse, and outsourced and vendor locations. Through these tools, inspecting, tracking, managing, and controlling inventory and associated costs is more efficient than otherwise possible.
State-of-the-art manufacturing scheduling and planning software goes beyond simple production scheduling, updating in real-time from events occurring throughout the supply chain as well as within manufacturing and enterprise resource planning (ERP) modules.
It incorporates all requirements and objectives defined in the plan with transactions entered externally through the Internet and internally through any of the integrated ERP software modules. This information is analyzed to determine the optimal schedule that meets customer demands as well as business objectives.
For the batch process manufacturer, this means:
- Demand-driven, on-time delivery
- Accurate and timely planning
- Optimized use of available resources
- Reduced cycle times
- Minimized inventory costs
- Maximized plant floor throughput
The Advantage of Batch Process Industry-Specific ERP Solutions
Generic ERP solutions typically have modules to manage a wide array of business functions, but batch process manufacturing often requires a solution with greater domain expertise integrated into the software.
To achieve compatible functionality, generic systems typically require considerable customization that is costly, time consuming, and may in the end fall short of solutions designed with integrated industry functionality.
By choosing a generic ERP, process manufacturers are often forced to adapt their unique processes to fit into a “one-size-fits-all” configuration rather than implement the best practices industry-specific solutions provide.
Since they were designed to meet the specific needs of batch process manufacturers, industry-specific solutions are simpler and faster to implement, and ultimately more cost effective. Put simply, their time-to-value is much shorter than their generic alternatives, which impacts both project success and bottom-line costs.
Manufacturing ERP software is tailored specifically for the manufacturing environment. It understands manufacturing challenges and delivers quality solutions that allow batch process manufacturers to run their businesses better, more efficiently, and more profitably.