Leading global supplier of fiber-based non-woven fabrics, used in a range of personal care products. Advanced multi-bond air-laid fabrics were becoming the market standard, replacing older ones with higher pulp content.
The plant was not set up for optimum performance, agility, or growth: it was managed by a number of non-integrated custom applications and Microsoft Excel reports. Much of the production management was being handled manually. To add to the challenge, the manufacture of non-woven products is extremely complex.
The original focus was on efficiency, quality, and scheduling. Everything was done in phases, with a dedicated MES project manager. The MES system grew through the plant year after year, starting with 10-15 users and growing to two-thirds of plant operators.
Quality: We started with data-driven insight into how products were actually produced, against specifications and ideal conditions. Knowing exactly where and how quality was failing made it possible to focus on the areas where improvement was needed.
Efficiency: The success of the Quality initiative led to the Efficiency initiative. We built a data-driven highly detailed picture of equipment uptime, downtime and waste, allowing improvements in throughput without equipment expenditure.
Production and scheduling: The new solution worked seamlessly with the fabric maker’s control layer of Rockwell PLCs.
Over time, the fabric maker extended the system further into operations such as lab data management and real-time quality alarming. Centerlining is regularly used to reduce variability and improve optimization. As well, the fabric maker does supply raw materials to regulated industries, and the MES allows them to supply detailed certificates of product quality and performance to those customers.
Results achieved were significant and wide-ranging:
- ~1% reduction in waste per year
- 3% annual savings in downtime reduction
- Continued increase in capacity, with faster startups after product changes
- Return on investment in less than one year