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Software Solutions
Monday | 15 January, 2018 | 11:00 am

Consult an expert

By Corinna Petry

Integrator combines ERP, MES and deep knowledge of supply chain issues to mesh systems, provide savvy solutions

January 2018 - Ruben A. Mirensky is one of those calm, collected people who quietly and persistently make sense. An expert in supply chain management from the perspective of enterprise resource planning software implementation, with years of operations consulting experience, he has built a matchless team and has struck partnerships with similar experts in the U.S. and Europe.

Mirensky’s goal is to have service center and metal fabrication operations make sense, too. His people at IMCO Software will enter a client’s operation, discover what needs to be connected—including legacy systems that still work—and what steps the client should take to run cleaner, faster, with fewer mistakes and greater uptime.

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Data capture begins at the receiving stage, where Zebra barcode labels or RFID tags are printed and applied to all materials, components and products.

Mirensky founded IMCO Associates Inc. in 1999 after gaining 25 years of experience as a supply chain director with an emphasis on management of information systems at major corporations including International Paper and ThermoFisher. Over time, he says, “I moved into the consulting business,” working with three different firms.

IMCO Associates has become diversified. It purchased Kustura Technologies, which offers a host of outsourced IT services, in 2012. In December 2016, it created a new division, IMCO Software, and signed a partnership agreement with France-based Alpha-3i, developer imco2of the CIMAG suite of products. IMCO introduced CIMAG to the U.S. market last year and provides implementation and post-implementation support of the system.

IMCO enhanced the European version of CIMAG by introducing an energy management system module it developed here in the U.S. Further, IMCO partnered with ITG Inc. to integrate ITG’s machine learning software, SORBA, with the US version of CIMAG MES.

Let’s break all that down. Clients using  IMCO - CIMAG’s MES Production are tracking in real time:

• Receipts of raw materials, components and finished goods

• Inventory movements from warehouse stocking to staging locations

• Raw materials and components releases to production

• Production of finished and intermediate goods, remnants and scrap directly from machine operations

• Finished goods and remnants movements to storage

• Finished goods staging at shipping locations, and

• Dispatching of finished goods.

The program also visually alerts users of production schedule conflicts, whether there is a shortage of raw materials, personnel, machine or tools availability. It can schedule production using alternative routings and bill of materials. It will freeze particular shop orders or periods for the start or the end dates in order to limit the impact of changes to only those orders that can be changed. The program allows shops to “park” orders until a routing is determined, provides a visual representation of capacity loads and helps users create a realistic, achievable schedule.

Mirensky says there are clients that have been able to achieve manufacturing performance to schedule better than 90 percent.

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SORBA “learns” the behavior of crucial assets, predicting operational and maintenance events, improving production planning, performance and efficiency.

Another crucial aspect is real-time communication. For example, schedule changes are posted so all shop floor operators and supervisors are aware at once. They are also alerted about changes to setups and when jobs are completed. Quality, maintenance issues and other data are instantaneously displayed on all parties’ screens.

Based on customers’ experience, using  IMCO - CIMAG MES to enhance communications was instrumental in reducing the scrap factor and rework by more than 33 percent and increasing machine utilization by more than 15 percent, says Mirensky.

IMCO - CIMAG MES also helps avoid costly errors. For example, pickers are alerted if they choose the wrong raw materials. Additionally, production supervisors are immediately informed if the sequence of operations goes awry; if the quantities being issued are incorrect;  if the order is about to be loaded onto the wrong truck or delivered to the wrong location.

SORBA

The SORBA software program, introduced last October, combines data acquisition and machine learning predictive analytics on a single platform. SORBA learns and predicts process anomalies and equipment failures before they cause unplanned downtime. SORBA “learns” the behavior of crucial assets, predicting operational and maintenance events, improving production planning, performance and efficiency, according to Mirensky. The program fits in perfectly with the digitalization of manufacturing and the use of artificial intelligence on the plant floor.

SORBA constantly seeks out minuscule changes in a plant’s data that humans cannot perceive and detects abnormal patterns that foresee equipment failure days, weeks or even months in advance.

Greener pastures

Last August, IMCO introduced an energy management system (EMS) module as a component of  IMCO - CIMAG MES in the U.S. market. Key functions measure energy consumption in real time. Using that information, the system alerts decision makers of deviations from standards and possible equipment malfunctions.

It uses historical data and what-if scenarios that can direct planners on how to optimize energy sources and production load distribution. Mirensky says the software can be coded to understand the local utility’s rate system and plan production for off-peak hours, for example. The EMS is a modular, flexible system that will interface with a wide range of existing ERP and the clients’ legacy systems.

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Schedule changes are posted so all shop floor operators and supervisors are aware at once.

Transparency

Traceability is among the most important abilities for metals companies. They have to be able to assure the customer where the piece of steel or aluminum came from and what’s happened to it on its journey to a finished product.

Data capture begins at the receiving stage, where Zebra barcode labels or RFID tags are printed and applied to all materials, components and products. Labels or tags are printed for containers and pallets where products are placed, as well as the warehouse locations they are stored.

Workers are equipped with ID badges to track everyone who handles goods or is involved in each process. All this allows a plant manager to identify and track everything that moves through the plant, and each process, and measure everything from inventory accuracy, scheduling and capacity to quality, maintenance and production-to-plan attainment.

Each operation’s duration and the operator’s identity are monitored, as well as production quantity and raw material usage, which is captured directly from sensors installed in the production machines. Maintenance and quality issues are captured as well, and they are shared and communicated in real time.

As production is completed, Zebra labels and tags are applied to finished goods, boxes, and containers. Products are then scanned as they move into storage locations.

Mirensky says these features are especially useful to meet regulatory requirements or order fulfillment standards for military and government contract programs. Performing these tasks automatically resolves issues so they do not become expensive fixes later.

Applications

According to Mirensky, any and all of the ERP, MES and EMS solutions offered by IMCO Software are affordable for small and midsize companies. “Our aim is to reach service centers with sales from $10 million to $50 million.” And it does not matter what capabilities a client already has. He recognizes “some of the smaller companies might be running their business on QuickBooks,” while others are more advanced, using SAP on the cloud, for example.

IMCO provides consultation, installation and support, and provides the software and hardware, such as controls and sensors. “So it’s more than just representing Alpha-3i in the U.S.—we offer a comprehensive and enhanced solution,” Mirensky says.

Capturing and evaluating operations data so that it benefits the bottom line? That does make sense. MM

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