Last week at the ASUG fall optimization forum in Nashville, I went out to dinner with several colleagues from another company. The conversation was pleasant and easy, until he asked me to define the perfect plant in a 30 second elevator pitch.
First, alittle on my background: I started in research in the chemical industry in a pilot plant – the pilot plant was sizable with real equipment to mimic a plant environment, and it was the final step before scaleup into a ‘real’ plant. I enjoyed the experience, so decided to become a process engineer in one of those real plants. I worked on numerous automation upgrade projects in California, France, Taiwan and other locations. I worked with PLC’s and data control systems in an attempt to communicate information and plant recipes to the operator on the floor. From there, my experience led me to plant mgmt, operations, and supply chain, before joining the ranks of SAP in this wonderful industry. So, I truly grew up in this manufacturing environment and have many real life experiences in this field.
So, when asked about my definition of the perfect plant, I reflected on my experiences and responded: I want an operator-friendly front end that has the simplicity of an ATM screen, and I want events that trigger alerts based upon exception to the right layer in the organization (ie maintenance mgr, plant mgr, operations mgr) in near-real time. I want intelligence for my operators, not just streaming data feeds – I know that my talented, 35+ yr operators are retiring rapidly and being replaced with green operators who have a steep learning curve. I want the ability to view my network of plants regionally and globally and see how they are operating, and then drill-down if I see a problem or have been alerted of a problem. All of this will enable me to make decisions faster with the intent of providing superior customer service at the lowest possible cost in an extremely safe environment. It may not be perfect, but if I had these things in place it would be pretty sharp in this age of downsizing where my resources are very limited.
Now, his response was: the perfect plant is when the customer gets exactly what he/she wants at the best possible service for the lowest possible price. And I still think that is a complete cop-out. However, he thought my response was not the right elevator pitch. And he’s probably right – I don’t think a CEO or COO would be able to relate to the value of my ATM analogy , but the intelligence comment might ring true.
The attached link brings you to the mfg/perfect plant roundtable – they may have already addressed this topic, but I haven’t found a definition that rings true to me just yet. So, I would really appreciate your insight on what is the perfect plant.