Mills produce very different products than products which are made in a typical process or discrete manufacturing. Mill products contain order specific attributes like width, surface finish, length, chemical composition, physical and chemical tolerance limits, and standard product specification (either company specific or more common industry specific). Mill products can be in the form of coils, rolls, bundles etc., and finished mill products are made by operations involving rolling, side trimming, order length cutting, surface treatment etc.
Steel, other metals, paper, packaging material, textiles, and some other similar products manufacturing industry segments constitute the mill industry. Each of these industry segments may have a different set of unique requirements but all of them share some common operational and business similarities.
For example, a typical order may consist of product names, weight, material grade, width, surface treatment, length, roll or coil inner core diameter, roll or coil outer diameter etc. From this order information, the number of rolls or coils for each order is calculated. Trim losses and product attributes with a lot of variation etc. are also common and these needs are to be addressed in the same way for all these industry segments.
Some of the process challenges include
number of variant product attributes: Whereas the total number of products
may be small, the variation in product attributes leads to the need of maintaining
Trim losses: Generally orders are produced by cutting from jumbo rolls or
slabs. As a result, a lot of material wastage occurs in form of trim loss.
The greater the number of trim machines on the processing line, the more trim
waste will be produced. With trim losses, businesses lose a lot of money.
cylinder change: In many cases the product is rolled an inner core. For different
orders, the diameter of this inner core may be different. So each time a different
inner core with different diameter is required, the inner cylinder setup has
to be changed. This leads to a lot of wasted time.
Machine setup for a different width product: If the machine is set for different
width each time an order is processed, then a lot of time may be waste as
machine is being setup time.
Changes in orders: There are many times when one order consists of many lines
because many products can be a part of the same order. Whenever there is a
change in an order, there is the chance of making an error when deciding if
a new line should be added or if an existing line needs to be updated.
Container stuffing: At the time of taking an order, it is difficult to determine
if the completed order will fit inside a container. Sometimes a very small
quantity is left after a container is full. This can create a major headache
for the sales department.
challenges mentioned above, can pose difficulties. Nevertheless, these challenges
can be tackled.
number of variant product attributes for each product: When defining products
in the software, a facility can be provided where infinite number of product
attributes can be defined for each product.
optimization: Trim loss can be minimized by combining orders where the sum
of widths in the orders closely matches the width of the jumbo roll or the
slab. By optimizing trim losses, businesses can save a lot of money.
Sequencing orders: To overcome production line routing delays, orders can
be sequenced so that the change-over of machines can be minimized. The same
technique is applied in other cases of change over like inner cylinder change
output planning: By cutting from the same stock of rolls or slabs, many orders
can be fulfilled from the same stock. This will save both trim loss as well
as machine set up time.
It takes into consideration multiple sales orders and keeps the information
about the original order through all production levels. This technique is
able to process multiple orders at the same time and yet keep information
about products, work in process, and orders all the time.
Changes in orders: Whenever there are changes in orders, either new lines
can be created if there is an addition to an order or existing lines can be
updated depending on situation.
Container stuffing: At the time of order taking, the sales person will be
able to know whether the whole order can fit inside a shipping container.
Depending on this information, a customer can change the amount in his order
so that the order can fit after a request from the sales person.
A large number of product attributes constitute the single largest challenge for any supply chain software made for mills. The supply chain software should be able to handle these changes correctly.
each segment of mill industry has a different set of unique requirements, there
are, nevertheless, needs which constitute a common platform for all these segments.
If a supply chain software meets these common needs then other industry segment specific needs (which are not many in number and do not pose significant problems for the software vendor) can be added or configured without much problem. Therefore customers should always look for the discussed functionalities in the software and if these functionalities are met, then the software is ready for prime time deployment.
Ashfaque Ahmed is a consultant of advanced planning, scheduling and optimization techniques in the area of manufacturing and distribution. He works with small to medium organizations in the food and beverage, textiles, pharmaceuticals, packaging, paper, metals, CPG process manufacturing industries, and automotive in the discrete manufacturing industry to solve their supply chain-related problems. He holds an MBA in Information Systems and a bachelor degree in engineering.
web page at www.geocities.com/ahmedashfaque2002,
or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org