Monday, October 15, 2012

Using Workflow for Expanded Collaboration

Invensys has offered two workflow products now for over 2 years.  The first, Skelta BPM, is an enterprise-driven workflow tool, meant to standardize processes and foster communication/collaboration among the business users in a company.  The second product, which I am intimately involved with, is ArchestrA Workflow Software.  It uses the base engine of Skelta, with extensions, connectors, and functionality specifically for the industrial user.

One interesting aspect of workflow has been its ability to fill in process “gaps” that normally exist in any industrial setting.  There are always manual and paper processes that must be executed in, be it work order sign offs, quality hold releases, incoming material inspection reports (leading to supplier scorecards).  And we’ve seen the gamut of them.  Just consider the following:

·         An automotive supplier uses workflow to determine if a Clean in Place process has occurred in their paint booth, allowing them to change colors “on demand” for optimum product mix and flow

·         A power industry supplier needed a lock out/tag out process enforced in a safe and consistent manner (including a complete history of the process)

·         A chemical products supplier had a mix of MES, with ArchestrA System Platform, and needed a way to manage normal and abnormal events across all systems

·         A food processor that uses Wonderware InTouch for process visualization along with an Overall Equipment Effectiveness application wanted to monitor asset performance KPI’s, so that they could determine any necessary actions if thresholds were exceeded (for example, creating a maintenance order in SAP)

In all cases, the goal of these customers was to drive process consistency, gain measureable data on activities, and become more proactive in their maintenance, engineering, and operations practices.  These customers HAD MES Systems, visualization systems, OEE systems, maintenance systems, but there isn’t always the time, money, or inclination to provide dedicated integration to these different applications.  The great thing about workflow is you don’t have to!  Process handoffs can occur programmatically, or they can be human or equipment-driven.  The end result is visibility to processes, a better understanding of the integration/handoff points, and most importantly, closed-loop procedures.

Will workflow work for you?  Have you already used it?  I’m interested in any feedback you have…

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