Improve the Flow, then Automate

by | Aug 9, 2021 | Life Sciences & Medical

Christian Berg

Solutions Architect Consultant, Life Sciences

Digital technology amplifies process outcomes, both good and bad, by automating standard workflows, completing calculations, and performing repetitive tasks. It provides the ability to capture and analyze process data real-time while leveraging predictive modeling to inform rapid decision making.

Once installed and validated, digital technology relentlessly enforces predetermined process standards. It provides valuable insights that can drive continuous improvement. Emerson offers a comprehensive suite of applications to help you achieve your Connected Industry aspirations.

Is your production process ready for a digital transformation? Ask yourself the following questions.

  • Does product flow through the value stream, from raw materials to finished goods, at a pace that is synchronized to product demand?
  • Are critical to quality attributes (CTQs) mapped to the process steps where they are manipulated? Are defect preventions and controls implemented at those key process steps?
  • Are inspection activities directly associated to CTQ manipulations? Are upper and lower acceptance criteria defined and recorded for each inspection?
  • Do process standards account for real-time response to failures and deviations?
  • Are key performance indicators (KPIs) directly correlated to process inputs and outputs in a way that promotes a culture of continuous improvement?
  • Is ALL of the content in associated process documents, controls, and record-keeping systems tailored to facilitate flow of the product in a modular, sequential, synchronized fashion?

Flow is the foundation of world class production processes. Impediments to flow result in waste (transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, over-processing, over-production, defects). Unfortunately, digital solutions are often leveraged to address observed wastes in production processes without first addressing foundational problems.

Organizations that succumb to the temptation to treat the symptoms of poor process design instead addressing the disease itself, i.e. lack of flow, incur high implementation costs, on-going system maintenance challenges, and unrealized benefits. Conversely, organizations that leverage digital technology to facilitate well-designed processes that are rooted in flow achieve rapid scalability, consistent high quality, and lower operating costs. Digital transformation is a journey that begins with defining and recording the physical process. Technology can’t correct the flaws of the process; it merely models and automates the process as it has been designed, waste and all.

Consider this…continuous improvement is a process polishing activity, and its facilitation is one of the key contributions of a digital landscape. If the process in question is unrefined and burdened with waste, its undesirable attributes will plague the digital landscape. Fundamentally flawed processes rarely become world class as a result of polishing. However, if the process in question has itself been transformed to enable flow, maximize productivity, minimize total lead-time, and foster continuous improvement, the ensuing digital landscape will reflect those virtues. Starting digital transformation with a well-designed process ensures that at the end of the journey, the process being polished is rooted in world-class value creation, and that value creation will be magnified.

Automating a process with many flaws is like polishing coal. Fix the flaws first and polish the diamond.

Organizational readiness for digital transformation should consider product and information flow, work standards, material replenishment, and production readiness (logical changeover, physical changeover, optimized control strategies and more comprehensive data integration). Improvements in logical changeover can occur in many areas including flexible recipe tech transfer & management, dynamic recipe activity design, and validating and testing against digital twin simulations of the process. Understanding and optimizing physical changeover is key to maintenance planning, schedule alignments, equipment operating status, and commissioning times.

Improvements to data flow enables robust control strategies that address exceptions, manual processes, equipment errors, and quality control methods. Finally, a well-conceived data integration strategy addresses information silos, custom interfaces, data integrity, and cybersecurity.

Emerson solutions for Life Sciences manufacturers

Emerson drives innovation that makes the world healthier, safer, smarter and more sustainable by partnering with manufacturers in the Life Sciences to optimize their processes with structured, results-driven systems implementations. Regardless of where your organization is on its digital transformation journey, we are here to help you achieve your aspirations. Learn more about how Emerson is working with Life Sciences organizations to fix the flaws and improve the flow in their production processes.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.