What the process manufacturing industry lacks in glamour it makes up for
in complexity. Software companies have for decades used technology to
automate business processes found in discrete manufacturing, becoming
giants by selling their products to the Dells, GMs, and
Toshibas of the world. In discrete manufacturing, much of the complexity
lies in coordinating the great number of parts that are assembled into
PCs, minivans, and televisions. Capacity needed to assemble the multitude
of intermediate parts and sub-components into finished goods is a simple
function of the number of assemblers brought to the task, which can be
increased or decreased according to demand.
It is not as easy to make changes in process manufacturing. For example,
the amounts of chemicals that a plant can produce are fixed by the design
characteristics of the tanks and reaction vessels it uses to make them.
Adding capacity is a costly endeavor involving months of design work,
followed by multi-million dollar construction projects. Disposal of off-spec
material is another costly operation even in cases where the material
can be sold to another plant. Rework of unused material is preferable,
but requires careful planning so that production of premium-grade products
is not adversely affected. Additionally, unlike discrete manufacturing,
switching from one product to another in a process plant involves significant
downtime during which maintenance is performed and vessels and piping
must be cleansed to prevent product contamination.
it is the complex nature of process operations that has kept software
vendors from progressing beyond the more esoteric realms of process design
and simulation into the commercialization of new products. Formation
Systems Inc., based in Southborough, Massachusetts is an
exception. For the past six years, Formation has specialized in providing
product lifecycle solutions for process manufacturing that enable companies
to satisfy complex customer needs, reduce manufacturing costs and simplify
their supply chains.
Formation Systems' Optiva suite spans a broad range of applications
aimed at strategic areas of product design, marketing, sourcing, and management.
Table 1 gives the modules that make up Optiva. The modules can be selectively
purchased and configured to best fit product development information and
1: Product Information: Optiva 3.5
formulas, materials and all related information in a central knowledge
the variability of formulated products and their ingredients
an electronic dossier of product development projects
'best-practice' business processes with a flexible program methodology
structure, and group common product requirements
and execute experiments designed with a DOE system
formulas that meet multiple, simultaneous constraints, while ensuring
that solutions are optimal
local product and material constraints early in the product development
process to ensure compliance
global test methods and manage consistency in test order issuance
generate data for ingredient and nutritional labels during product
repeated business processes and enforce business rules
Optiva knowledge repository to online industry resources and databases
tools and documentation that let you extend and customize Optiva's
centerpiece of the suite is Optiva Workbench, which accelerates
the product development process by supporting design collaboration with
suppliers on formulas and specifications as well as providing the visibility
needed to utilize fully existing information so that "wheel reinvention"
is avoided. Other modules in the Optiva Product Suite like Optimization
for constraint-based formulating, Requirements Management,
and Specifications Management are designed to capitalize
on the data management features of Workbench. In its entirety, the Optiva
suite speeds the product development life cycle by easing collaboration,
facilitating access to supply information, and managing product testing
and other tasks that precede a commercial release.
is delivered in an n-tier architecture supported by a global data repository.
The repository is responsible for storing and distributing application
data, providing users with one-time only data entry. A central data clearinghouse
is critical to Optiva's scalability that enables it to keep pace with
the demands of a growing organization or one that chooses to implement
Optiva components incrementally.
addition to the novel collection of applications in Optiva, Formation
has other strengths that should serve it well in the process manufacturing
software marketplace. President and CEO Peter Shields leads a senior management
team composed predominantly of scientists and engineers who have attained
real-world business skills along the way. This gives Formation an important
distinction in an industry too often peopled by talkers and sellers rather
than thinkers and doers.
advantage for Formation is its blue-chip customer base, composed largely
of household names like Coca-Cola, GE Plastics, The
Gillette Company, Proctor & Gamble,
and chemical giant Akzo-Nobel. In addition to enhancing
its corporate resume, large multinationals provide Formation vast global
networks of product development and manufacturing sites in which to expand.
strategic alliances, Formation leverages the strengths of established
consulting firms, technology providers, and content providers. The Consumer
Goods and Services practice of Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting)
is Formation's preferred service partner for Optiva implementations. It
also offers related services such as helping develop an effective product
development strategy, streamlining product development processes to reduce
time to market, and using consumer insight to generate innovative new
With the growing adoption of software technology among process manufacturers,
we expect Formation Systems to grow substantially (100-150%) over the
next 2 to 4 years. Senior management needs to continue emphasizing Optiva's
capabilities for reducing costs and enhancing revenue to avoid the inevitable
comparisons to off-line simulation packages and design toolkits. Formation
should also embark on an aggressive marketing campaign to improve its
visibility in the process industry and even consider an alliance with
Aspen Technology provided it employs its own brand.
Process manufacturing companies or those that develop and market products
for manufacture through outsourcing partners should give Formation Systems
strong consideration if speed and cost-savings in their product development
cycles are a priority. Through its partners, Formation provides integration
services and can connect Optiva to ERP, MES, document management, and
other systems such as LIMS either through a standard interface (SAP,
J.D. Edwards) or custom implementation.