Pechiney Moves to Real-time Manufacturing System

French aluminum giant seeks gains through workflow automation, real time visibility and control at rolling mill

French aluminum giant seeks gains through workflow automation, real time visibility and control at rolling mill

Long Beach, CA — October 30, 2003 — French aluminum manufacturer Pechiney has implemented a real-time manufacturing software application suite from Apriso to automate the various components of its manufacturing operations at its Rugles mill in France.

The plant, which is operated by the Pechiney Rhenalu subsidiary, is a state-of-the-art rolling mill that ships over $116 million annually in aluminum strip and foil, principally for packaging applications. Pechiney itself is the fifth largest producer of aluminum in the world, and second in Europe, with annual sales in excess of $13.9 billion.

"Pechiney Rugles is representative of a significant number of high-profile manufacturing operations around the world," said Adam Bartkowski, president and CEO of Apriso. "They have a world-class manufacturing capability that has, until recently, been operated completely without the benefit of enterprise software at the manufacturing level."

According to Bartkowski, Pechiney utilized a series of ad hoc systems for production, monitoring, and quality control that employed mainly upon paper-based transactions "glued together" by massive Excel spreadsheets. "They are not to be faulted," said Bartkowski, adding the assertion that "until recently, no end-to-end, commercial, integrated software solution has been available for global, enterprise-class manufacturers."

Bartkowski's company offers what it describes as a new type of enterprise software that differs substantially from more classical, planning-based systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to the extent that it is designed to coordinate in real-time the tens or hundreds of thousands of "events" that occur in a production facility nearly continuously. At the same time, the Apriso solution directs the execution of process steps, monitors the performance of machines and workers, records detailed historical information and provides real-time performance information to both workers and management. This event-driven, Web-services-based model is the foundation for the software suite installed at Pechiney.

"We had several aggressive goals that we wished to achieve," said Marc Vincent, project leader at the Rugles plant. "First, we wanted instantaneous visibility and control over every operation in production, including quantities, quality, and process values. Second, we wanted 100 percent material traceability including product quality. Third, we needed visibility into the performance, use, and maintenance parameters for our production machines.Fourth, we wanted real-time tracking of every operational process. Fifth, we wanted to track labor. And finally, we wanted to be able to continuously generate KPIs [key performance indicators] at various levels of detail so that every worker — and manager — could track their own performance and make the best decisions."

And, if this weren't enough, added Vincent, the systems had to be intuitive and easy to use for line workers on the shop floor, and had to provide signals and feedback anywhere value-added actions could occur.

"It was a tall order," said Vincent. Key to the decision to use Apriso, he said, was its ability to easily interface to Pechiney's SAP R/3 ERP installation, as well as other systems such as ASP or PLC. "As our plant has one of the most complete implementations of SAP R/3 within Pechiney, this was a very important criteria," Vincent explained.

Apriso's software suite, which is marketed under the FlexNet brand, was selected because it uniquely fit this bill, according to the solution provider. FlexNet is a family of nearly 30 Web-based applications that integrate the components of manufacturing and distribution operations — people, machines, material and processes — into an end-to-end infrastructure that Apriso claims is virtually "plug and play."

Apriso said that for each of the production, logistics, quality and asset management operations one finds in a modern global manufacturer, FlexNet has numerous "process aware" workflow managers that can be tailored — by the users themselves, if necessary — to the specifics of each plant process. Supporting that are a process builder for defining and tailoring such processes, a machine integrator for tying each application to any machine, data-exchange modules for defining real-time interfaces to ERP systems such as SAP R/3 or Oracle 9.2i, supervisor portals and real-time performance dashboards for immediate monitoring and control.

In the case of Pechiney Rugles, FlexNet provided its Machine Integrator, Process Builder, SAP R/3 Interface, Workflow Manager, Network Manager, Material Manager, Process Quality Manager, Time Manager (for labor), Production Manager, Label Manager and Supervisor Portal modules.

Apriso was selected over would-be competitors, said Bartkowski, because of the scope of its offering combined with its unique technology. "FlexNet is the only event-driven enterprise software suite in existence," he asserted, "and the single most comprehensive enterprise software implementation of a 100 percent Web-services-based architecture in the world. Both are a requirement if companies like Pechiney wish to institutionalize best practices."

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