Recipes represent valuable intellectual property when you’re producing the products that represent your brand. It’s as important to protect recipes from internal sabotage — by well-meant adjustment — as it is to protect them from theft by a competitor.
Managing recipes with a batch management package reduces the associated costs and risks that come with custom programming. It adds flexibility and agility to the manufacturing environment, which means that manufacturers can bring new products to market quicker while efficiently delivering those products within production schedules.
A recipe is not simply a list of specific quantities of ingredients. Those are properly called formulations, and are just part of the recipe. A full recipe includes an ordered set of steps that must be followed — similar to kitchen recipes found in any cookbook — where the formulation comes first, followed by the ordered set of steps.
Formulations are generally represented as data — in controller memory tables, simple files or databases. In the early days of programmable logic controllers (PLC), formulations might be moved around in the controller data table with a selector switch. Many human-machine interface (HMI) software programs offer formulation management, often misnamed as recipe management.
Formulation management can be used when the steps used to make various products change minimally or not at all from one recipe to another. Even then, implementing formulation management in lieu of recipe management fails to deliver important recipe lifecycle value.
A recipe’s ordered steps are generally represented in programming. Developing and managing recipes in a batch manufacturing package is much faster and more accurate than developing and managing code in a controller. The cost of controller programming development, validation, maintenance and modification as new products are introduced must be considered when assessing the added value of a batch management package. Controller programming modifications often require downtime for implementation and testing. And avoiding even just a few hours of downtime on a cell or line by moving the programming aspects of the recipe to a package with robust recipe management can easily justify the batch management software.
New products are exciting opportunities for companies to grow sales. Getting those products to market quickly hastens that sales growth. However, since controller programming is a specialized skill that is often contracted out, programming modifications lengthen time-to-market for new products. Conversely, ISA88 flow-chart style recipes are often modified by in-house individuals who are familiar with the process, or even product developers, resulting in much shorter time-to-market.
Though any programming change involves risk, programming in a controller presents more opportunities for mistakes than programming in the higher-level environment found in a batch management software package. Avoiding mistakes is not the only way recipe management packages reduce risk. Packages will both control and track who can or did create, modify, or release a recipe for production. Packages could maintain multiple recipe versions for additional traceability, version control, and rollback. These capabilities help manufacturers comply with good manufacturing practice (GMP), resulting in consistent quality products.
This lower risk allows manufacturers to consider producing multiple products in one process cell or producing single products in multiple process cells. Both increase equipment utilization and add flexibility and agility to the plant floor, enabling plants to make more product and meet production schedules efficiently and effectively.
Flexibility, agility, security, and traceability are great reasons to demand that your next batch automation project includes batch management software with robust recipe lifecycle management. Additional reasons will have to wait for another day.
Timothy S. Matheny, P.E., is president of ECS Solutions, a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). He is also author of a paper on model-based control, presented to the ISA Food and Pharmaceutical Industry Division in 2014. To obtain a copy of Matheny’s paper, or for more information about ECS Solutions, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.