Case Study Successful Implementation of POMSnet Aquila MES

Case Study: Successful Implementation of POMSnet MES in Life Sciences Sector Facility

Digital transformation is a key priority for manufacturers in the life sciences sector. A crucial element of most digital transformation strategies is the implementation of MES (manufacturing execution systems) and/or modern SCADA solutions to digitalize processes and increase automation.

The customer who is the subject of this case study wanted to achieve this objective. They are a large multinational corporation in the life sciences sector with a manufacturing facility in Ireland. The MES platform we were tasked with implementing was POMSnet Aquila MES.

The Project

POMSnet was selected by the customer at a corporate level. To implement the platform, the Irish facility needed a local integration partner.

We were already familiar with POMSnet at SL Controls, and we could see synergies between the platform and the skills of our engineers. In addition, we have a close and long-standing relationship with the customer, plus our engineers are very familiar with the technologies in use at its Irish manufacturing facility. These factors put us in an ideal position to deliver this project.

What We Did

As with many projects of this nature, the implementation of the POMSnet platform would take place in phases. The first phase involved digitalizing two manufacturing processes.

Project Requirements

Our team started by gathering the project requirements, reviewing the paperwork that was being produced manually, and spending time with process owners and other key stakeholders.

Our approach with digital transformation projects like this one is to get a full understanding of the existing workflows and processes. The people closest to those workflows and processes have the most knowledge and experience, so their contribution to the project is vital to success.

User Involvement

Involving process owners and other key stakeholders at the outset of the project is also important to overcome the natural resistance to change that can exist in any organization. By involving team members in the project from the very beginning, they feel involved, consulted, and informed. They also made valuable contributions that enhanced the final solution.

The implementation stage also progressed more smoothly because of the involvement of team members at the earliest stages of the project. A primary reason for this is that less upskilling was required at the implementation point as team members were already familiar with the solution and had experience using it during the development stages.

Also, because of the way POMSnet works, the SL Controls team was able to digitally replicate the manual system, maximizing familiarity levels for those operators transitioning to new processes and ways of working. The fact that POMSnet is very visual in the way it works also helped.

Solution Strategy & Development

Our initial groundwork enabled us to develop a strategy to digitize the existing manual processes using the POMSnet framework. We developed a master batch record within POMSnet to facilitate the implementation of this strategy. Up until then, the master batch record was paper-based.

Following our analysis of the paper-based manual system, we broke the processes down into component parts. We then identified the parts that could be fully automated and presented them to the customer.

The customer selected the elements to automate, leaving us with automated components and components where an operator would have ongoing involvement. Within these parameters, we developed and implemented the POMSnet MES solution, although there were some challenges to overcome along the way.

Collating the Required Documentation

One of the challenges going from a paper-based manual system to a digitalized system in manufacturing environments is collating all the required information and records. This documentation is necessary so our engineers can identify areas of alignment where commonalities exist.

The documentation collation process is difficult because of the various systems, processes, teams, and people involved, but it is important as it reduces development time and improves support. Our engineers worked methodically with the various departments within the customer’s organization to gather the required documentation.

Legacy Systems

The project involved integrating the POMSnet platform with pre-existing equipment. Completing a project like this on a greenfield site is more straightforward as decisions can be made on equipment that ensures compatibility. In an existing facility, as was the case with this project, we didn’t have that luxury.

Instead, we had to leverage the information that was available without making any equipment or code changes. For example, we couldn’t request changes that would standardize a date format or provide us with additional data. We had to work with what we had.

This is one of the strengths of the POMSnet platform, though. The flexibility built into POMSnet meant our engineers were able to develop workarounds for every integration challenge and limitation.

The Results

The implementation of the POMSnet system went smoothly for three main reasons:

  • Involvement of the customer’s team throughout the development lifecycle, from senior staff to factory operators.
  • The skills and capabilities of our engineers.
  • The flexibility of POMSnet and its extensive range of features

As part of the transition to live, we implemented a hyper-care scenario where support was available to the customer’s team on a rapid response, 24/7 basis. There were minimal calls to our support staff during that period, further demonstrating the success of the implementation.

Some of the benefits that have been achieved with the POMSnet MES platform now up and running include:

  • Batch release processes on the two manufacturing lines are now 50 percent faster.
  • Batch release processes are now automated on a release-by-exception basis, driving additional efficiency savings.
  • Quality and material tracking lookups are now instantaneous as all the data is managed on the POMSnet

The success of the first phase of this POMSnet implementation, and the benefits it delivered, led to the second phase getting a green light from the customer. We are working on this second phase at the time of writing. The successful digitalization of manufacturing processes also led to new projects at some of the customer’s other manufacturing facilities.

Eamonn McManus, Director of Technologies at SL Controls, said: “Digital transformation projects like this involve utilizing some of the best technologies currently available. POMSnet is a great example. But the secret to success isn’t the technologies – it’s people.

“In this project, that included the customer’s team who worked with us through every stage. It also included the POMSnet team who provided fantastic support and, of course, our engineers and project managers who led the project throughout, from strategy creation to solution development to implementation and post-implementation support.

“We are delighted this project was a success and we look forward to helping other customers with their POMSnet MES implementations.”

William Shih is VP of the Professional Services Group at POMS Corporation. He welcomed the successful completion of this project.

William said: “The entire project ran smoothly from start to finish, from the upskilling of the SL Controls team through all development stages through to the successful implementation. As the makers of POMSnet Aquila MES, we know the power of the platform, so it is fantastic to see it delivering real-world benefits on a high-speed, high-volume production line in the life sciences sector.”