The Secret To Smooth Batch Process Operations Is Close Partnership With A Systems Integrator 639a149d8bc92

The secret to smooth batch process operations is close partnership with a systems integrator

Dec. 14, 2022
In this installment of Automation Zone, learn how experts in the system integrator community can help support your business goals.

Companies that operate in multi-step, multi-ingredient batch processing operations employ a combination of complex procedures, business and operational systems, and communications. The range of tools and machinery used to process a potential vast array of ingredients and process steps are what it takes to make processors successful. Entire working cultures emerge from these operations that foster a focus and achieve positive outcomes.

The more specialized the market and operation, the fewer number of people who operate within that domain. This often prevents regular interaction with a broad spectrum of manufacturing peers, leaving individuals and organizations feeling they are so unique that they are relatively isolated. They frequently feel little confidence that people outside their close-knit internal group can effectively understand them, let alone support their work and goals.

The possibility exists that they are rare, but they are not entirely unique, and outside firms exist that are closely aligned and, in fact, true peers as well. Truly consultative systems integrators (SIs) exist in the batch processing community who can serve in this role. They have established a collective corporate consciousness that is aligned with the DNA of their core clients: batch processors. They immerse themselves in the behaviors and characteristics of these clients and it is reflected in nearly every aspect of their operation.

The relationship between a true partner SI and their batch processing clients is easily analogized to the relationship between a patient in need of specialized medical care. A patient can communicate with a broad spectrum of physicians, and common threads would be revealed in conversations with nearly all of them. However, when a specific need arises, the most effective means to a successful end is to engage quickly and deeply with someone who functions each day in the required specialty field.

In industry, the involvement of a trusted expert SI provides assurance that the best possible experience is involved with the planning and execution of projects. Moreover, they approach each project as a partner with a client’s long-term needs in mind. The internal operations systems of the SI should mirror the structure and key roles within a processor’s organization. Processors should find a complete ecosystem that addresses the equipment, processing steps, and layered data flow aspects of manufacturing. The SI’s leaders should regularly receive and then deliver training that drives every member of their team to understand considerably more than just physical automation.

Systems designs should reflect physical processes, which are modeled and converted into operational steps, and these steps may include both automated equipment and manual operations. Designs should highlight equipment capabilities and manual work, which are arranged into procedural models. All this work related to the physical operations should be examined within and aligned to the data flow requirements for business planning, manufacturing operations management, and manufacturing control. The entire team at the SI should approach each project and modules within them with this in consideration.

Experienced batch processing professionals may recognize alignment within this description to International Society of Automation’s ISA-88 and ISA-95 standards. This is not coincidence, as batch-focused SIs weave these standards into their internal systems. This allows them to purposefully approach the evolution of each of their teammates in a manner that constantly drives toward homogeneity with their clients and further establishes their expertise with each passing collaboration, large or small.

Every client interaction is streamlined by this aligned approach to both communications and operations within the firms. Every opportunity and situation should be approached and then problems are solved without having to first establish baseline understandings between the SI and the client nor within the SI’s team itself: results should happen efficiently. Client personnel from each layer within the model should benefit from the connection to the SI’s team, from operators, engineers, production management, to IT.

Some batch processors initially have no exposure at all to business modeling in this manner and some are deeply rooted in the methodology. No matter which case, a high quality SI’s aligned understanding should support effective establishment and/or expansion of this for their clients. Their experience and methodologies help them to navigate today’s challenges and pragmatically plan for future expansions. Much as batch processing is not new nor the standards that govern the most efficient business operations, these specialized firms are also not new and can provide this crucial role for manufacturers in this space.

About the Author

John Robert Parraga

John Robert Parraga is director of process automation at ECS Solutions, Inc. He is an experienced process (particularly batch process) engineer with career stops at Sequentia, the firm that gave the world batch management as we know it, and Rockwell Automation where he held several roles. As a global process technical consultant, John advised many customers and integrators on the best way to control their processes; and as FactoryTalk Batch product manager, John was part of the PlantPAx leadership team. His published paper on recipe based clean-in-place remains a standard for implementing the best and most efficient clean-in-place control systems.

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