Coffee gets complex, Factora solves the problem

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A 100-year-old coffee producer needed to ramp up performance and upgrade systems capabilities to meet aggressive growth plans. A brand-new building was erected to house a cutting-edge receiving, storage, and transport system for the green beans that mark the start of coffee manufacturing.

One of several contractors, Factora’s role was to:

  • Control, via software, all receiving, cleaning and storage equipment (e.g. send batch of 500 pounds of green bean Variety Q to Roaster X; take batch PQR from trailer to cleaning equipment).
  • Be a single point of information and intelligence for the factory floor.

Other vendors were involved in designing and building the HMI (Human Machine Interface), configuring the ERP, and providing / configuring the new equipment. One of Factora’s biggest roles was to be a partner and connector between these vendors, leveraging the MES to integrate all the systems and data.

Problem

Change was the name of the game. Requirements and scope evolved dramatically throughout, to the point that Factora’s role increased over four times within a six-month period. Further, the primary contractor and project lead had relatively little experience in software implementation.

As an example, after we’d decided on the approach and software for our original minor role, the client moved to a much more ambitious plan. Brand-new flowcharting provided new success criteria for how the entire plant floor would be run, dramatically changing business requirements.

This continued throughout, resulting in five significant change orders. Often, these changes reflected increased scope for Factora – other vendors backed away from the complex business logic entailed.

Solution

As originally designed, Factora’s contributions were all on the critical path for implementation – we were the people who could hold things up. Plus, as integrators, we were required to interact with a wide range of systems and vendors on this ambitious project. Yet as it worked out, despite the many changes, we were able to meet all deadlines for solution development and testing readiness.

Several factors enabled our success:

  • The Factora team rapidly adapted to the ever-evolving requirements. Problem-solvers first and foremost, Factora transitioned from an “Out of scope!” to a “Let’s work out how we do this” mentality. Over two dozen Factora employees contributed to the project, highlighting our adaptability, depth, and successful teamwork.
  • Informally, the team embraced an Agile development framework. If functionality planned for future phases could be pulled in while the larger team worked through delays, those tasks were re-prioritized and delivered earlier.  On a bi-weekly basis, all open tasks were assessed; resources were re-assigned as necessary.
  • Factora invested in a dedicated, on-site Factora technical lead. In a dynamic project with multiple parties, face-to-face communication becomes paramount; it’s the only way of keeping the parties and process aligned. As the content experts, we had to manage the many relationships and bridge the gap on all sides. Investing in a dedicated on-site leader made that possible.

Results

When we reached go-live, the Factora solution was rock solid. While a number of other contractor’s contributions had issues, Factora had almost none.

Even during our hypercare period – just post go-live, when we scrutinize, monitor, and verify all data for errors, discrepancies, and anomalies – only two minor configuration changes were requested, both able to be executed by the client.  “This is the most boring hypercare ever!” said our project team.

The happy ending is that our coffee-producing client is delighted with the outcome.  The new MES is the backbone of their automated receiving system, ready to be further leveraged as they extend it to other production areas.

Essentially, the MES serves as the brains that tells all the new equipment – real and virtual – how to operate. And of course, it captures a wide range of key information: ­how much product is loaded, how much it weighs, where it’s going, and much much more. All that information is then routed to the corporate ERP.

Or to put it another way, we helped our client take several giant strides along the road to world class manufacturing.