Companies comprising the Chemical Industry vertical are distinguished by having replaced the traditional Bills of Materials and Routings with Formulas to govern their manufacturing composition and processes. Included in the Chemical Industry vertical are Paint and Coating, Specialty Chemical and other similar companies. In this narrative we will discuss those characteristics that are common and that set the Chemistry Industry apart from Discrete Manufacturing and other Process Industries. We will confine our topic to batch processing and leaving continuous flow and pharmaceutical processing for another discussion.
New technologies and software for Chemical Industry Manufacturing Software makes new processes and applications available to the chemical manufacturing industry today. Some of the applications that might be desirable for chemical manufacturers would be Assemblies, Audit Trails, Financials and Accounting Applications, and Marketing tools.
Dashboard control to coordinate all modules as well as mobile solutions would be tools that managers in the chemicals industry would be looking for today. Also, cloud-based technology that is available to the chemical industry makes updates and security easier to manage, and makes the need for updating IT-related hardware and software much less of an issue than ever before.
Mobile Solutions integrated into chemical industry ERP will help managers at all levels, including purchasing, production, warehouse management, work order management, supplier management, and project management make decisions on the go and feed them directly into the system.
Better analytics, relying on big data, dark data captured from instrumentation, and historical data, are helping chemical manufacturing companies make better forecasts and decisions in all areas including the supply chain and marketing.
Key to manufacturers in the Chemical Industry is their reliance on Formulas which express the ingredients used in terms of ounces, pounds, gallons, and volumetric units of measures. Included here can also be characteristics of the equipment used in the process such as run rates and settings, as well as other machine operating instructions. Formulas are useful methods of expressing components since they lend themselves to scaling on the shop floor, where the batch size is increased or decreased depending on meeting the desired amount of finished goods. Along with the Formulas, a Packaging Bill of Material will describe the discrete packaging items to be used to finish the product. For products being packaged in different packages, there may be several Packaging Bills of Material associated with a Formula.
Associated with the unique aspects of Formulas are special considerations required for scheduling the plant. As with all manufacturing facilities, capacity planning is critical to effective utilization. Time phased forward scheduling is primarily used and it takes into account product change-over including product sequencing on the equipment to limit incompatibilities resulting in “bleeding,” of one product’s characteristics into another such as color, and downtime which will include wash down, and preventive maintenance. Scrap to run concepts are also employed, where the batch contents are packaged regardless of the amount of units scheduled to be produced. If not already incorporated within the ERP applications software, a Maintenance Management System is most likely found in process plants to control downtime and govern the maintenance activities.
Inventory of finished and raw material also requires special consideration. One of the biggest issues is catch weight, the same item in different sized containers. Additionally, volume units of measure, metering, and material purchased and stored in different concentrations can be the norm in many plants. As far as production, reporting Co-products/Bi-products and Theoretical usage with Back Flushing is prevalent in the Chemical Industry. Finally, Batch Holds is the norm where a chemical process needs to be stabilized prior to use or shipment. Throughout the industry, the shelf life of inventory is a consideration to maintain potency.
A Quality Module is a key part of the ERP solution for many plants. In some cases, Laboratory Information Systems (LIMS) are used in conjunction with the ERP system to govern the testing of both raw and finished goods.
Distribution may require special emphasis in the Chemical Industry. Transportation may be a significant cost especially when considering shipping of bulk products and HAZMAT concerns.
Process Industries issues are no more complex than other industries within manufacturing, but their issues are different. We have highlighted some of these issues that may require addressing at your facility. Since there are a wide variety of industrial verticals within process manufacturing there may be a number of other functional requirements to consider.