Feb. 28, 2008
Accessible production data helps mills stay competitive by providing a detailed view of processes, but the tools that manage this data must be consistent across an organization to achieve the best results. At Cascades Inc, an information technology (IT) project to install a manufacturing execution system (MES) across the company, beginning with the Tissue Group sector, has been undertaken to optimize manufacturing and support the company's global growth strategy.
"Cascades is focused on leadership in our industry and to do that we need visibility into our production operations," says Daniel Gelineau, vice president of operations for Cascades Tissue Group and sponsor of the MES project.
So far, the MES has been installed at three tissue mills, and the intent is to have it in all nine by the end of 2008, with all converting operations to be completed by 2009 for a total of 16 facilities. The company is already seeing benefits from the MES, and expects to see more in the future. Gelineau says the solution will help the company become "very nimble in our development and delivery processes, empowering us to optimize profit as well as global growth."
Uniform Production Data Needed
In 2006, Cascades began looking for an MES to manage and assess the overall equipment efficiency (OEE), downtime and product quality performance of its paper machines in real time, according to Mario Sylvain, corporate director of information technology for Cascades Tissue Group. Cascades was using an OSI PI data historian to collect process data, but only at six mills in all of Cascades, meaning much of the data was still manually collected and entered into green-screen mainframe applications.
"In the old system, when we produced a roll, the operator in the lab would have to press a key indicating that the roll was finished and enter its attributes into the system, which was inefficient and opened the door to error," Sylvain describes. "If downtime occurred, the operator was supposed to enter its duration and cause, but this did not always occur, so we did not have a firm handle on our downtime and OEE across the company."
Also, says Sylvain, data were often manually transferred into spreadsheets for calculations related to OEE and downtime, but these calculations could vary from location to location, not to mention the delays stemming from manual data transfer. The company needed a tool to automate data capture and standardize calculations, as well as one that would use the data to monitor product quality and costs in real time – all of which were critical in the competitive tissue market.
"We knew our competition used such systems, so we needed software that could help us better manage our business by comparing paper machine performance, profitability of various grades and other parameters, while doing so at the lowest possible cost," says Sylvain.
A Proven System
To achieve its competitive goals, Cascades purchased the Proficy Plant Applications MES software, version 4.3.1, from GE Fanuc Automation, selecting the system's configurable modules for efficiency, quality and production management. The Proficy software was chosen because of its proven track record in paper and tissue.
"We knew of at least 10 reference installations, and we determined that this software offered the proper standardized reports to support our business needs in the Tissue Group," Sylvain explains.
The efficiency module identifies and monitors all areas of manufacturing for inefficiencies. It performs root cause analyses, summarizes historical data, provides schedule reports and controls overall equipment effectiveness. The quality module helps to decrease waste and provide consistent products for customers. The production module oversees production operations, including functions to control product flow between equipment, develop genealogy reports for product traceability and make schedule changes to reduce excess inventory without impacting order delivery.
Cascades also purchased GE Proficy Historian to collect information (called tags) from throughout each paper mill and converting plant. This software quickly collects archives and distributes large volumes of real-time, mill floor information and is able to read all types of process data to provide a window into manufacturing operations and key metrics. The purchase of Proficy Historian meant Cascades would remove the OSI PI Historian from the six mills where it was operating.
"Cascades wanted to standardize its IT systems, and we could not maintain two types of tags, two types of historian software from a cost standpoint," says Sylvain. "The standardization makes it much easier for us to ‘cut and paste' from one installation to another by just attaching the correct tags from the specific paper machine or converting line."
Another way Cascades is cutting its IT costs is the decision to centralize its MES and overall IT architecture at corporate headquarters in Candiac, QC, where a single server uses VMware to create multiple virtual servers. Proficy Plant Applications, the Historian, and underlying databases run on these virtual servers, as well as the Proficy Real-Time Information Portal, which allows users to access the MES and its data via the web.
The Information Portal is a single, integrated tool for accessing, analyzing and visualizing production data. It provides a web-based overview of key metrics, and its trending and reporting capabilities take advantage of the data storage ability of Proficy Historian. Graphical data from the portal can be personalized for the user and accessed from anywhere via a web browser.
While time consuming, data migration from the PI and other systems to the Proficy Historian was not difficult, says Sylvain, and once installed, the new historian would work better with the compatible Plant Applications modules. Most of the work was done in house, but consulting services that included implementation, training and integration assistance were provided by GE Fanuc Premier Solutions Provider System Technologies for Industry Inc (STI) in Trois-Rivieres, QC.
Three of Nine Running MES
Currently, three of the nine mills in the Cascades Tissue Group are running the MES – Candiac, Kingsey Falls and Lachute, QC. All nine mills are expected to use the software by the end of 2008, and Sylvain says these installations should go faster than the initial ones, taking around 6-8 weeks each.
"For each mill, we run the old setup in parallel with the MES for three weeks and compare the results, after which we stay another two weeks to make sure the users are comfortable with the system," Sylvain explains.
Cascades also plans to install the MES at seven tissue converting facilities by the end of 2009. The converting facilities take longer, says Sylvain, because there are multiple converting lines and much more data must be collected. Currently, the converting plants associated with the three mills running the MES are preparing to implement the MES.
Better Access to Important Data
The MES is part of Cascades' larger IT architecture, which includes an in-house enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for accounting, materials management, order entry, block scheduling and inventory. This application runs on an IBM AS400 platform and is interfaced to the MES.
Orders are entered in the ERP system, which determines the grades to produce and creates a block schedule that is sent to the MES. The Proficy production management module is capable of further schedule tweaking, but Cascades elected not to do this, instead relying on this module to send order details back to the ERP system upon order completion.
The MES automatically tags that a roll is completed, only requiring the operator to place an automatically generated barcode label on the finished roll. The MES also keeps track of machine downtime during production runs, so that OEE for the machine is always available in real time. Once a roll is ready for inventory, the ERP takes back control to track the roll.
In addition to tracking downtime and production in real time, the MES also monitors quality, allowing traceability if a problem occurs with a product.
"Each time we make a case of bathroom tissue, the MES knows which jumbo rolls were used to do so," Sylvain describes. "Going back further, the MES knows from the ERP which bales were in deinking when the roll was produced, so we can identify if there were issues with a particular waste paper supplier."
The MES also supports real-time, detailed access to trend information when the mill is running trials. This information lets managers know right away if process changes are beneficial or not, and allows them to adjust the machine quickly to compensate for negative impacts.
Users and Benefits
MES users range from operators and machine superintendents to plant managers and the vice president of operations. For operators, transition from a green screen to an intuitive Windows-based graphical user interface with a mouse has been a welcome one that has facilitated faster training and easier troubleshooting.
In addition, both operators and management benefit from summary reports generated by the MES that help analyze trends and paper machine performance. These reports and views of the machine are also available through the Internet Portal so users can work from home or when traveling.
The real-time information is already being used to assess performance of the paper machines at mills where it is installed, and this benefit will grow as the MES is implemented at the remaining mills. It will allow Cascades to look at the profitability of various grades, and the goal is to determine costs down to the specific production run. Ultimately, the MES will help Cascades make accurate big picture decisions about its grade mix and where capital should be invested.
Monica Shaw is a freelance writer located in Atlanta, GA.
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