By Clara Gavriliuc Ph.D.
The right plant management software can help your facility improve yield, compliance, and quality. But as with any technology, the best results only come when you’ve found the right fit. As you explore plant management software options for your organization, here are some factors to consider.
The benefits of plant management software
Plant management software provides food, beverage, consumer product goods (CPG), and process manufacturers with many benefits. At the most basic level, the system allows businesses to remain competitive by empowering employees to better fulfill their roles.
With the right technology, food and beverage and CPG manufacturers can improve their yields, ensure high-quality products, and achieve better control over operations. The best software will provide teams with the visibility they need to find and address underlying issues. It also makes it easier to comply with regulations while still meeting production goals. When implemented properly, the right platform will also help reduce waste and unplanned downtime.
Following are several elements to look for when considering plant management software.
One necessary feature to seek out in any plant management software is an integration of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). OEE helps manufacturers consistently monitor how their facility is running compared to its full potential. In other words, it’s the standard for measuring how much time has been productive.
Plant management software should feature automated data collection to help companies accurately track OEE. For instance, it allows users to pinpoint losses resulting from rework, quality issues, and changeovers. With robust data collection and intuitive dashboards, it also offers the capability to drill down for root cause analysis.
Audit management simplifies workflows to ensure audits run efficiently. With features such as time and date stamps, electronic signatures, and secure profiles, records are easy to access for only the necessary parties, ensuring smooth documentation checks without compromising security. Through one convenient document repository, the software stores all the data electronically to reduce the risk of incomplete information.
Moreover, plant management software can also support remote audits. Setting up profiles with access control allows third parties to access only specific records. Thus, document reviews can take place off site, reducing the resources needed to complete audits.
Food and beverage and CPG plants should look for a system that supports risk management. Identifying and managing your risks is critical from both customer satisfaction and compliance perspectives.
The right software will collect data from every shift and piece of equipment and trend the data automatically. Over time, patterns will emerge to help identify the biggest risks. Once the observed issues have been addressed, improvements in safety, quality, and performance follow.
Making sure that certificates and other necessary documents are up to date is cumbersome and error-prone with a paper-based system. Visibility into the supply chain also is an obstacle for manufacturers without digital records.
Plant management software simplifies vendor management with a convenient supplier portal. Not only can suppliers upload documents such as updated certificates, but automatic notifications can also be set up when documents are about to expire. These automated features save manufacturers the hassle of keeping track of expiration dates and chasing down suppliers for updated documents.
The right software allows program documentation to be on hand and referenced throughout the facility. It simplifies compliance with programs like the FDA’s FSMA by connecting associated documents to them in the system. The result is a searchable, convenient database operators have at their fingertips right on the plant floor.
Business intelligence and analytics
When looking for management software for your plant, it should not only collect and store data, but also provide tools for business intelligence and analytics. With these features, key performance indicator (KPI) trends can easily be viewed.
All the information should be presented on compelling dashboards, allowing red flags to be easily pinpointed and tracking performance at a glance. The system should also allow the development of internal dashboards. For instance, various departments can customize dashboards to focus on their priorities.
One of the benefits of a binder is that it can be taken anywhere in the building. However, the drawback is that they’re bulky and cumbersome on the plant floor. Plant management software presents forms via tablet, which busy operators can easily manage.
Electronic mobile forms simplify data entry and ensure accuracy. They can be accessed from anywhere, making it easy for plant operators or even teams in the field to input and access data conveniently. Tools for capturing photos for direct observation are a bonus and will make it easier for management to assess issues no matter where they’re working from.
Another useful feature plant management software should have is form-building tools. Changing program data or customer requirements may require the creation of (or changes to) forms. The process of doing so should be convenient. These tools provide a visual editor and conditional fields for straightforward form creation.
Notifications and alerts
Setting up automated notifications can make a big difference in day-to-day operations. A system with this feature allows custom alerts that automatically get set off when a process is nearing specific thresholds.
Because these notifications are received in real-time, teams can respond and mitigate a problem before it gets out of hand.
Statistical process control
The final feature that should be looked for in plant management software is statistical process control (SPC). SPC uses statistical techniques to measure and control quality outcomes throughout the manufacturing process.
The platform should be able to plot all the necessary data into graphs using specific parameters. Then, through charts and graphs, it should allow the prompt and accurate identification of any unusual events. With the ability to spot these quality issues, issues can be resolved before they escalate and become costly.
About the author
Clara Gavriliuc is vice president of data analytics at SafetyChain Software. With a career in software development and data analytics spanning more than 2o years, Gavriliuc is skilled and knowledgeable in building reporting and data visualization tools, implementing KPIs in customer accounts, and creating data integration solutions for customers. She holds a Ph.D. in computer science and a master’s degree in business administration.