What is Production Line Integration?
In a manufacturing line sense this means the assembly and coordination of all necessary line equipment and related processes to allow efficient production of the required goods at the right quality. That is a lot of words!
In our world, the majority of our customers produce drinks, liquid foods or nutritional products. Line integration in these industries typically includes equipment, processes and people for: producing and supplying the physical product, supplying (and sometimes manufacturing) containers, cleaning and/or sterilising packaging components, vision inspection systems, filling and sealing containers, product coding, capping, X-Ray, multi-packing, capping, sleeving, case-packing, palletisation, etc. Most often these operations involve equipment from many different suppliers so when they are all connected together you can begin to see where the expression “what could possibly go wrong…?” comes from!
However, do not despair, this is not necessarily a problem – read on!
Why is it important?
Efficient high quality, low cost production of goods is essential to remain competitive in the FMCG industries.
If a production line is not integrated properly, achieving these objectives is unlikely. On a poorly integrated line it is normal to expect low output efficiencies and high wastage, both of which lead to a relatively high unit cost. It is also likely that poor integration will lead to sub-standard product quality which may result in high customer complaints (or in some cases product recalls).
High unit costs will impact the business case put forward to justify the investment in the first instance, as will poor quality product, as sales volumes and revenue will be impacted.
If a new product is being launched, a well-planned project means the difference between being first to ship new products to market and missing the boat.
Prime Design has been integrating production lines in the Nutritionals, Drinks and Liquid Food Sectors since its inception more than 25 years ago.
Our integration experience includes: steel can manufacturing and HDPE ‘hole through the wall’ plants, plus the filling and packing of: high speed PET and HDPE bottles, cartons, steel and composite cans, and PET Tubs. We have integrated lines of differing complexity including SCADA, MES and ERP systems and product serialisation. The majority of our line integration projects in the past 10 years has been international, having completed projects in Europe (6), Asia (2), Australasia (3) and North America (1).
It is normal for us to be integrating equipment from many countries and time zones on the same project.
From our previous experience we have established an effective strategy for line integration projects. All projects are different so our approach is to minimise items that are unknown or untested. As the say in Continuous Improvement circles, ‘variation is the enemy’! Project elements that are untested are handled with increased rigour to mitigate risk to the overall scheme.
We break the project down into elements and apply this standardisation approach to each one. Typical project elements include:
- Project Context
- Supplier Evaluation
- Standard Designs
- Solution Approval
- Project Review
- Risk Management
This approach allows us to be able to more accurately predict how the integration project implementation phase will go.
Most projects include new or untested items and our approach is developed to handle this situation effectively. These items are thoroughly investigated and validated during the project development to mitigate risk. In some cases a feasibility study may be done to make sure what is being proposed is achievable. In all cases however, these untested items remain as a ‘high risk’ until we are satisfied that the risk has been adequately mitigated.
On the overall scheme we often also utilise our in-house 3D laser scanning and/or Computer Simulation Modelling tools to mitigate risks during implementation
We are proud of the good relations with our customers and would value an opportunity to discuss your next line integration project with you.