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Managing Software: Using plant floor systems to improve business control

Plant floor systems feed accurate, real-time information into plant and enterprise level ERP systems.

FOOD PROCESSORS USE ERP SYSTEMS TO PROVIDE A COMPLETE business picture by integrating ordering information with production, shipping and accounting. This is a necessary step in controlling business operations.

While ERP is a success in connecting the back office functions of an enterprise, it falls short in the data collection and plant monitoring functions crucial to the food plant.

At the plant level, this includes applications such as maintenance, quality, compliance, HACCP, SPC, recipe management, production planning, engineering, process simulation, lot tracking and distribution. While some food plant ERP systems do some of these, none do them all.

Much of the data managed within an ERP system originates from the plant floor. This includes data such as quality, raw material receipts, finished good receipts, shipments and inventories. Without an interface to a plant-floor data acquisition system, this information typically has to be keyed into the ERP system. This leaves room for errors and data inconsistencies plus delays information getting to the people and systems that need it. Having this information available in the ERP system in a timely manner has great advantages. Interfacing ERP to a data collection system allows the ERP system to be updated with accurate data in real time.

One example of successful integration is at Protinal, one of the leading chicken processors in South America. Protinal is an international operation of Ag Processing Inc. (AGP), a farmer-owner cooperative consisting of 243 local cooperatives and eight regional cooperatives, representing 250,000 farmers throughout the U.S. and Canada. Protinal, headquartered in Valencia, Venezuela, is a fully integrated poultry operation processing more than two million birds a week from breeder farm to supermarket. The company has three business segments-chicken, deli and animal feed.

Protinal needed better control of sales and ordering operations such as assigning orders, order distribution and inter-warehouse transfers connected with real time data provided by the plant floor operations. Protinal's customer orders, transfers between plants and physical inventory were not reconciled with accounting in real time. Since information was uploaded in batches, current inventory was not exact. Invoices often ran a day behind ordering.

Protinal uses Baan's ERP solution for its accounting, shipping and inventory control functions. To provide some plant floor function and to connect the plant floor data to the ERP solution, Protinal selected CAT2, a supplier of software systems for the food industry. CAT2 had demonstrated success in the meat industry with primary and further processing systems integrated with ERP systems including SAP, Oracle, Baan and others.

Protinal uses CAT2's Primary Processing Tool Series (PPTS), a manufacturing execution system (MES). It provides real time data collection of each processing step (receiving, weighing, de-boning, make-to-order, cold storage, product mix optimizer, product costing system and yield management systems).

Interfaces were completed into Protinal's production and dispatch departments to update Baan with the daily/shift production totals throughout the day. The dispatch interface had to interface with Baan in a number of areas including: customer orders, inter-warehouse transfers, and physical inventory.

A make-to-order module allowed Protinal to allocate cases of finished product to orders as they are produced. The palletizing module minimized the number of pallets required for each order. Pallets are tracked from when they are built, stored in cold storage and ultimately shipped.

Protinal is leveraging both its ERP and MES investments to provide better management at both automation levels. Now real-time inventory updates and shipping reports are interfaced with production totals for accurate reporting totals for accounting and ordering capabilities.

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