Recipe Management: What Took Us So Long!

By Lewis Talley, System Consultant, InSource Solutions

Sometimes an enhancement to life comes along and you say to yourself, “well, why in the world didn’t we think of that before?” Like adding wheels to luggage. It’s hard to think back now and picture how we traveled before luggage on wheels.

My teammates at InSource and I have been consulting on recipe management projects for over 20 years. Only recently would we say we have all the software tools you need, out of the box, to tackle recipe management. To extend the metaphor, we walk thru a lot of airports and only recently am I looking up and noticing how everyone’s luggage has wheels. It’s hard to picture now how we managed recipes before.

Recipe Management – What does it mean?

In its simplest form, a recipe is a set of instructions of not only “what” is needed to make something, but also “how” to make that something. Take cookies, for instance. I need some ingredients – the “what” or formula – and I also need some directions on how to cook them  – the “how” or recipe. That might look like: combine the sugar, butter, flour, and eggs and bake at 350° for 9 minutes. I may tweak that recipe slightly until I get the right taste, and then I will update the cookbook so I can produce the same cookies next time I bake them. That is an overly simple example, but imagine those concepts out in your production environment. Then add the complexity of many different ingredients (from different suppliers), hundreds of product variations, different equipment, changing environmental conditions, as well as operator preferences. All these variables can affect your product in some way and you will want a system with the right recipe execution capabilities to create the consistency your market demands. You may need a system to do things such as centrally organize and manage your formulas and recipes, alter and approve changes (if necessary), analyze the results and adjust processes or set points such that every product is consistent. Simple, right?

Until relatively recently, it’s been a challenge to get it right. For decades, you have could simply store set points in a PLC or local HMI file, and if you hardly ever needed to change those recipes, that might work fine. But most companies, as they grow, need their recipes in a central database for ease of access and change management with simple inexpensive web interfaces for operators as well as more sophisticated reporting for process engineers. Once more team collaboration is needed then networking is required for all necessary parties to have access to the data they use. Thus, allot of custom solutions have been deployed over the past few decades.

A quick search of what companies achieve after implementing some form of a recipe management solution shows that most see greater than 30% immediate improvements in productivity and quality. So, a custom solution, though potentially expensive to maintain, may be worth the effort.

However, today users are no longer forced to decide between a full execution system (i.e. complete batch management that is extremely functional but expensive and requires a high level of process management sophistication) and the functional completeness of a custom or home grown recipe management system (such as a scripted or custom solution). New off the shelf software puts wheels on your luggage.

Wonderware Recipe Manager Plus (RMP) is just what we’ve been waiting for. It’s a functionally rich solution without the rigidity of a full batch management solution such as Wonderware InBatch. RMP is targeted at the space between machine/equipment setup parameters (formula management) and recipe management and execution for multi-product, single stream production processes. It is designed to be implemented in an environment with or without Wonderware System Platform, and can be securely interacted with from any device (HTML 5). Analytics allow users to “close the loop” and alert operators to process variable drift.

Bam! Wheels on the luggage.

If you’d like to learn more about Wonderware’s Recipe Manager Plus Solution, join us on Thursday, March 23 at 2 p.m. EDT when Recipe Manager Plus Product Manager for Wonderware, Dirk Kozian, and Recipe Manager Plus Product Marketing Manager for Wonderware, Michael Schwarz, talk about the value of RMP and answer your questions live. Click here to register now.

If you’d like to schedule a consultation with InSource to see if your systems can benefit from an upgrade, click here.

ARC Advisory Group wrote a good reference for learning about closing this market gap. Click for the full article.