Demand for more product variations is at an all-time high – especially in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. Today’s manufacturers must comply with offerings designed to meet an expanding list of preferences ranging from serving size and dietary requirements to new taste profiles.
In fact, a recent PMMI report indicates that four of five companies surveyed have more than 100 product SKUs and over half predict that number will continue to increase.
The proliferation of products certainly drives a need for a flexible manufacturing environment that enables fast, efficient changeover. And oftentimes, much of the responsibility for creating flexible plant floor systems falls to the OEMs who supply process equipment that must integrate with the overall control system.
Integration Obstacles: Cause and Effect
Despite their best efforts, manufacturers may struggle to integrate OEM skid equipment and systems that achieve the level of production information required to maximize manufacturing agility.
The cause of integration obstacles can often be traced to lack of clarity at the definition and design stages of the project. The success of any project is determined by the level of specificity in the scope document – and that is where the root of many integration issues takes hold.
Undefined goals. Vague specifications. Misaligned terminology. When applied to a project RFP/RFQ, these characteristics make it difficult for OEMs to respond. And while project specifications typically cover equipment “form and function,” many do not include “fit” or the integration of subsystems into the overall process automation strategy.
Unfortunately, a process skid is often treated as a black box instead of an integral part of a plant automation solution. The result is skid integration challenges and potentially low fidelity information sharing between local skids and plant-level systems.
What Can an OEM Do?
When integration is not included in OEM scope of supply, more often than not the OEM cannot change a customer’s bid or integration plan. However, as an OEM, you can take proactive steps to improve access to information and simplify how skid equipment is integrated – and ultimately improve the manufacturing flexibility of the system.