All in one system

Product lifecycle management (PLM) software for process industries like food & beverage, life sciences, chemicals, or paints is quite different from its counterparts in the discrete manufacturing and fashion industry segments. You can realized that in corresponding PLM market which is dominated by many toolset-oriented niche and document management system (DMS)-oriented vendors. Unlike for discrete manufacturing that has several broad solution set providers, most process PLM solutions are point-to-point solutions missing an enterprise-wide or even multi-side support focus. As a consequence most companies selected a process PLM vendor for its primary area of expertise made a lot of workarounds for PLM modules having a restricted scope of functionality. Since the benefit of this approach is the ability to go live quickly this should be regarded as a feasible strategy as a first step. On the other hand, it limits the users’ ability to expand the spectrum of their process PLM implementations e.g. in order to reach enterprise business process optimizations. Another problem of this type of implementation is its focus on structured data — product specifications typically have only a minor percentage of well-organized data e.g. from formula modeling or recipe management database tables. The remaining majority of information is expressed in technical terms and semantic expressions rather difficult to manage in a (object-oriented) PLM system.
So, what should a holistic process PLM solution embrace? Since most companies in the process industry are not pure black or white meaning there is always a discrete manufacturing part in it to support the ideal process PLM solution should consider

  • PDM or tools-oriented functionalities which allow companies to configure data for each object and workflows. Since often companies use Excel or legacy custom solutions to create formulas this data should be automatically synchronized with the PDM solution to manage the approval and engineering change management processes
  • Specification-oriented functionalities to provide a single entry point to find all relevant specification information
  • Formula modeling and compliance-oriented solutions to provide applications that support experimental formula structure management and modeling capabilities. Some of these solutions manage formula and formula recipes, too
  • PPM-oriented functionality to manage business processes for project execution and portfolio management
  • (S88 or S95) recipe management-oriented functionality coupled to downstream PDM, ERP and manufacturing execution system (MES) functionalities.

These integrations helps toward the end of the product design process to optimize downstream transactional and execution processes. How could process industries benefit from a better PLM?
A more horizontal (broader) process PLM solution might also make possible (for a more detailed listing see also here)

  • In-time research and development (R&D) cost estimation modeling based on purchase price indexes or actual costs captured in the ERP system
  • Publication of product specification documents which include both structured PLM, non-PLM data, and unstructured PLM data enriched with metadata allowing companies to balance engineering change management costs, data maintenance costs, and the time to react
  • A standardized enterprise item, formula, recipe, and packaging maintenance process can fill the gaps between each of these point PLM solutions
  • Requirements management with proper process support to develop validated standards helping to optimize time-to-market and to ensure brand protection
  • Integrated data access and role-specific workspaces to improve multi-site project collaboration and to minimize time-to-gather product-related information. 

For us it is obvious that a vendor with an “all-in-one” approach has a clear advantage. But what can we observe in practice? Is the aforementioned just gray theory? Are there flagship projects to acknowledge? The best at the beginning: yes, the process industry is on its journey to PLM 2.0 meaning a lot of migration works have already been done and there will more to report on. Let us take Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget (SCA) because the firm is a rather impressive example confirming our assertion. The Stockholm/Sweden-based consumer goods company and pulp and paper manufacturer has approximately 52.000 employees and net sales of 12,6 billion euro in 2011. Its four business units include personal care products (like baby diapers and feminine hygiene products), tissue, packaging, and forest products. Among others, SCA‘s brands are Zewa, Tempo, and Velvet. Over 50 manufacturing sites are run over the globe and business activities in more than 90 countries. At this point not necessarily important to mention but also remarkable is the fact that SCA is Europe‘s largest private owner of forest land, with 2,6 million hectares, an area slightly larger than US state Vermont.For many years, SCA is a key customer of the SAP AG headquartered in Walldorf/Germany. As the responsible expert from SAP Solution Management PLM, Daniel Bender, notes against our editors, SCA took the offered Recipe Management functionality and streamlined all the corresponding processes. SCA‘s recipe management embraces calculations harmonization via fixed algorithms and BOM exchange between engineering, production (including handling of alternatives), and finance/controlling. Steering of production, demand planning, quality checks, finance management and finance/controlling is based on a central specification master (see below). “Now a developer can create a product based upon served guidelines, e.g. with a automaty online certain degree of mechanical strength and a certain cost point. This person can use a recipe management component as a starting point and then the system will propose for him a formula option. Owe to the roll-out, SCA was able to increase its throughput and was able to introduce worldwide standardized procedures“, Mr Bender says.  Recipe Management is a component of the SAP ERP client meaning “it is being performed in the same system where the manufacturing resource planning and so forth takes place — in other words: the integration is direct”, Mr Bender emphasizes adding emphatically: “All in one system.” SCA has been rolled out the recipe management on a global basis over the last six years. At the moment more of the half of their sites are standardized in this way.

PLM and recipe management at SCA

No doubt, recipe management is a core functionality but it is by far not the whole story of a holistic process PLM concept. As mentioned by an SCA Global Hygiene IT representative at the last SAPinsider PLM conference, end of April 2012 in Prague/Czech Republic, SCA doesn‘t see PLM just as a recipe management tool, it is an instrument for unified communication an the master of describing the product and all its business cases across the lifecycle. SCA‘s PLM journey has started some six years ago. The decision pro SAP PLM was made because SAP ERP was already successful in use and the extension in the direction of SAP PLM the next logical step. It took several years to develop and execute a suitable PLM roll-out strategy. They decided, first to drive PLM in the already established processes. At nearly every SCA site in the world, the IT environment was analyzed. Owe to several acquisitions, the different division were running a broad spectrum of different, in part tailor-made IT applications which have to harmonized. The goal was to implement one entry point to put in the data and global standardized templates because that means the reduction of degrees of freedom boxes in the decision making, especially in R&D. How does the process PLM system evolution looks like at SCA now? You can divide it in three parts

  • Product lifecycle management embracing specification management by means of SAP Environment, Health & Saftety (EH&S) for the generation of specification types, SAP Recipe Management, formula and E(ngineering)-BOM handling (E-BOMs are more or less a copy of the recipes)
  • Supply chain management by means of SAP Material Management, production planning including P(roduction)-BOM handling
  • Finance and Controlling with C(ontrolling)-BOM handling.SAP DMS is acting as a backbone for the document management.

SAP DMS is connected to the product package delivery form. Different template types for different needs were made available, in each case ensuring that the user only has access to approved data. SCA‘s PLM links the new product introduction processes (NPI) and the supply chain processes using SAP as integrated IT platform. So, the business processes in the value-added chain (R&D categories, manufacturing, forecasting, order to billing, distribution and supply) are fed by a Material Master which is directly connected to the Specification Master.

By Bernhard D. Valnion, Editorial Head of economic-engineering.de

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