Business Solutions for Process Manufacturers: What to Look For?

Compliance, quality, throughput, tracking, safety. Those are all points of concern for any manufacturing organization. And while these challenges are certainly nothing new in the industry, the competition for lower cost of labor, cheaper operational costs and readily available raw materials across the global market are making the tackling of these challenges more complex than ever before.

In search of effective ways to manage various production processes, all manufacturers have been, to one degree or another, turning to solutions that simplify the control over critical operations within the company.

Naturally, the solutions in question have significant overlap with one another as certain best practices apply to a broad spectrum of companies. This is a good thing, since standardized solutions can be pre-configured and implemented with a substantially smaller investment and in a much shorter time span. For process manufacturers, the parts of the system this is true for are going to be certain financial, HR and field service modules. The applications governing the manufacturing process itself are going to need to be customized to a certain extent in order to accommodate for all the unique requirements a process manufacturing organization is going to have.

Here are 3 challenges that process manufacturers can better overcome using customized business applications.

Continuous production:

Unlike discrete manufacturers, who are forced to keep low stock of finished goods and be ready to constantly modify the production line, process manufacturers organize their production activities in a way that allows for a high-speed and high-volume production. To achieve this, these manufacturers typically use expensive production equipment that is difficult to shift between products. The key factor in maintaining desired levels of production falls on the reliability of that equipment and the reliability of the raw material supply.

Manufacturing solutions can assist organizations in monitoring machine utilization and performance in order to create an optimal maintenance schedule, make sure the necessary parts are available and appropriate people are notified. Additionally, by analyzing past production levels against current levels of stocked raw materials, the system can be set up to autonomously place orders to maintain optimal levels of material supply making sure production remains undisrupted.

Shelf life:

Since products manufactured by most process manufacturers require no customization from one purchase order to the other, manufacturers are able to keep a fairly high inventory on-hand. Warehousing finished goods allows for a much faster fulfillment of purchase orders and makes sure the distribution channels are always well supplied. However, this is often complicated by the fact that many of the products in question have a specified shelf life. What this means is that tight control over the warehouse is necessary to ensure a minimal amount of waste.

An appropriate warehouse management system (WMS) can prove to be of critical importance to the success of this process. Adequate planning of the way product is stocked and the shelf life of each item allows for better coordination with the distribution to make sure each unit gets delivered in time and at the desired quality. Additionally advanced forecasting can allow organizations to avoid being understocked or overstocked on any item they produce.

Strict batch or lot accountability:

Although it is certainly true that many process manufacturers have a long list of products they produce, those products often share similarities. Some might partially require the same raw materials while others use the same parts of the production line or a combination of both. It is not uncommon to have processes that split only to merge again down the line while simultaneously introducing new batches of materials into the process. And while complicated internal processes are a necessity in process manufacturing, they certainly put significant stress on the organization’s ability to maintain visibility and effectively track each batch of materials.

Since many process manufacturers are FDA regulated and thus subject to recall, it is imperative that organizations implement a system that can allow them to remain compliant while also allowing for better internal visibility and quality control.

Due to the high degree of variance when it comes to the way process manufacturing operations are set up, these key areas are not able to be pre-configured and require a more traditional implementation approach. That’s why it’s key that you consider past clients and industry-specific implementation projects they’ve had. This past experience is going to be key when it comes to the success of your project – when it comes to these crucial areas where your organization is going to have unique requirements.

At Merit Solutions, we have deep experience partnering with process manufacturers in both the food and beverage and pharmaceutical industries. We understand what it takes to achieve the outcomes you desire from your digital transformation initiatives and have the client portfolio to prove it.

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