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Leveraging SAP MII for Business Information, Courtesy of Automation Signals

 

Managing a private label manufacturing portfolio can be challenging, and those challenges are only amplified as the portfolio grows to multiple products and divisions.  One consistent challenge facing the managers of such portfolios is determining the level of capital infusion the holdings require to maintain and expand operations.  Protecting operations and new product support are the highest priorities to provide investor returns but, beyond those most obvious requirements, the process gets quite a bit more complicated.

The pitting of divisions and plants within them against each other for a piece of the limited capital pie repeats annually in most cases.  Each entity submits impassioned requests that need to be reviewed and ranked with respect to the entire enterprise’s needs and goals.  It becomes quite important that teams who lack the detailed knowledge of all the sites’ operations can make fair decisions on a level playing field across disparate sites and divisions, all with unique manufacturing operations and equipment vintages.  Boiling down their operations to the most basic components is critical and throughput analysis helps to place all these familial competitors on the same plane.

One major US-based private label food manufacturer knows this process quite well.  With 35+ manufacturing sites that make snack foods, beverages, baked goods, breakfast foods, and candy products, they are quite used to this measurement exercise.  In 2021 they sought to streamline this effort via technology and implement an online system that takes much of the legwork out of the collection of information, subsequent compiling, and finally ranking of the sites.  Rather than a one-time manual accounting effort each year, the vision was to have an online system based on their SAP management suite.  This client determined that tools within SAP’s Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence (MII)** application would be perfect.  The only hitch was now configuring the plant sites to provide good information.

The manufacturer turned to longtime partner Process and Data Automation, LLC, a Member of the Krones Group (P&DA).  P&DA has nearly twenty years of continuous operations and has executed thousands of projects for dozens of manufacturers just like this, including many for this client at sites all throughout North America.  A CSIA-certified partner, P&DA brings the exact elements that are needed to make a project like this successful:

Industry experience in making or packaging most or all the products, and thus processes, that need to provide information to this system +  

Deep knowledge of many manufacturers and vintages of control hardware

+ The technical ability to tie all the information from disparate manufacturing operations into the common MII system in a standard format

 

The manufacturer established the protocol at a small set of their closest held, most capable facilities.  Once that pilot proved successful, they then shared the concept with Process and Data Automation and turned them loose at the subsequent sites.  Armed with an understanding of the desired end results, P&DA’s team then visited the affected sites and returned information on how to achieve this at each location.  Some of the sites were in the client’s portfolio for an extended time and shared a similar setup of machinery standards as well as some legacy plant data collection system components.  Many, however, purchased at different times from different prior owners, had neither of those advantages.

P&DA then developed an implementation strategy for each of the requested sites.  Where the client had good information and access to systems’ PLC controllers the P&DA team connected in and derived the signals.  In sites that were complicated by older hardware, non-standard controllers, or non-accessible controller code, the P&DA team developed a “sidecar” system that deployed a new concentrator PLC that connected into required machine signals via piggyback connection.  In all cases, whether deployed in existing or new PLCs, the emphasis was on using both existing signals wherever possible and using standardized code so that all the collection efforts reflect a common methodology and connection style into MII.  This signal data is connected to financial data that exists in the SAP system and the result is accurate, real-time information about the value of operations.

In addition to the machine signal work, P&DA’s team worked together with the client’s corporate IT team to implement the required network topologies so that the data collection system didn’t impede operations in any way.  Segregated networks were deployed and data collection switches were added inside uplink racks so that there was a route for data to take to reach the MII.

The result of this effort is a standardized, level system from which corporate supply chain managers, analysts, and accountants can view information and make informed decisions about where they should focus attention in the form of capital.  Managers watch in real-time as all financial inputs are measured against output and an ongoing grade is generated for each site and, often, each line within those sites.  The new system will be expanded to the balance of the manufacturing sites in 2022 and its data capabilities are already being expanded to provide additional details for ancillary data applications.

 

**SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence is an SAP application for synchronizing manufacturing operations with both back-office business processes and standardized data. It functions as a data hub between SAP ERP and operational applications

Posted In: Digitalization Digest