Line execution systems for production processes

In manufacturing operations, ensuring efficient output and product quality is key. However, due to the nature of traditional production lines, these processes can be error-prone and inefficient. Using a dedicated line execution system to monitor and visualize production data at every stage of the process can help to identify areas for improvement and optimize operations. Here, Giuseppe Menin, Pharmaceutical Industry Manager at automation software supplier, COPA-DATA, discusses manufacturing line solutions using zenon as a line execution system.

The concept of an assembly line was patented in 1901 and now, over a century later, production lines are a mainstay in modern manufacturing.  Consisting of a series of workstations or machines, they are scalable and ensure some degree of uniformity and consistency of production. However, this can often be at the expense of quality and efficiency.

Manufacturers looking to achieve higher levels of quality and to improve production line output could consider using automation in their manufacturing operations. COPA-DATA’s zenon software can be used as a line execution system — an integrated software solution that can give operators the power to visualize, oversee and control entire production processes from batch opening to final batch report from one convenient platform

Production line challenges

The typical configuration of a production line involves a number of isolated machines working as standalone equipment. Operating several isolated machines is time consuming for an operator when he needs to setup the product recipe, start the production and monitor each individual machine by a local HMI panel. By implementing a line execution system, these machines can all be connected and offer a single point of access from which the whole line can be visualized and managed, simplifying the process overall.

Introducing a line execution system is beneficial for data collection and gathering. When equipment is operating as a standalone unit, it collects its own data in a specific format, making collection and analysis of this information time consuming and prone to issues. An automated system provides central data storage for easy access to all relevant information and good manufacturing practice (GMP) records, improving Data Integrity compliance and saving time during monitoring and quality control.

The potential quality issues that arise during line manufacturing are especially significant in industries such as pharmaceutical production, where strict regulations mean compliance is of the utmost importance. Failure to comply can have severe consequences, including risks to health from unsafe products, heavy fines and even criminal charges.

Automating a production line allows end-to-end transparency and traceability at every stage and can even detect and notify operators of GMP deviations, giving manufacturers more control over quality and reducing the margin for error.

Integrated production solutions

COPA-DATA’s automation software zenon offers an integrated platform for production line control and execution. Fully scalable, the software platform can be implemented from small batch operations through to mass production, and can easily upgrade existing legacy equipment for inclusion in the automated line, allowing manufacturers to keep their current machinery and preserve their investments. New standard operating procedures can be directly implemented, reducing changeover time and cost and, in the long-term, increasing plant output.

A line execution system can save plant managers time and resources. Moreover, increased visibility and accessibility of data means can help to improve overall efficiency. It can also monitor machine status and production parameters and alert a supervisor in the event of any issues, giving them better operational awareness and supporting them in decision making. 

zenon is an adaptable out-of-the-box approach, providing the first level of plant digitalization, including historian audit trails, reporting, recipe and process management and preparation of the production line for higher level digital integration.

Production lines revolutionized industry over 100 years ago, but the evolution of automation and digitalization can unlock new possibilities for traditional processes to keep up with modern demands. Manufacturers can use the software as the first step on their digitalization journey and grow from there, avoiding pilot project purgatory on the way to their digital plant.

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