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Simulation in the food and drink sector
The UK’s food and drink sector faces a continual stream of product and manufacturing challenges. The combination of seasonal demand patterns, high product turnover and new trends such as multi-variety packs increase the demands on manufacturing facilities and challenges engineering departments. Other initiatives which are also prevalent in the industry include: site consolidation, supply chain management and automation. With capital investment running into millions of pounds for new or replacement facilities, it is imperative to ensure that the manufacturing facility will meet the current and future needs of the organisation.
To manage these challenges and to ensure that the proposals are fully validated so that changes are ‘right first time’ the leading food and drink companies are routinely applying simulation to internal projects.
Simulation provides the means to discover the most cost effective means of achieving a particular goal. ‘What-ifs’ can be performed to compare alternative scenarios to identify the best balance between performance and capital expenditure. Performance may involve maximising throughput, maximising the utilisation of bottleneck assets, minimising WIP or a combination of these criteria. Simulation enables all business cases for change to be reinforced through a proven methodology; solid proof of the benefits can readily be demonstrated.
This can be applied to:
Simulation has been successfully applied to a wide variety of applications.
Determining the requirements for intermediate storage – for example, if an SKU contains more than one type of WIP code (intermediate product) then each intermediate product will require storage prior to being demanded by the packaging schedule. Other projects have looked at the capacities of chill stores, raw material silo/bunker configuration, tank sizes for beer and milk, and the level of accumulation prior to secondary packaging.
Balancing the conflicts of long batch runs for upstream production and downstream demand patterns – to maximise upstream efficiency often necessitates large batch sizes and infrequent changeovers. However, if the intermediate product produced feeds a multi-variety system or several packaging lines each producing different SKUs then large batch sizes could cripple the performance of the downstream facilities. Analysing how the best overall performance can be achieved involves performing many ‘What-ifs’ because a change in one area frequently has unforeseen consequences elsewhere.
Material handling systems – the systems used to convey raw materials from stores to induction points or between different stages in the production processes is ideally suited to simulation. Examples of such systems are:
Projects frequently involve more than one of the aforementioned aspects. The complexity inherent in such a system makes it almost impossible to manually assimilate how the system will perform given the large inter-dependence and inter-relationships between the various equipment.
Examples of what companies have achieved are:
Capital Avoidance – A major UK brewery saved £1m by proving that the return on investment in an additional filter was negligible providing the bright beer tanks were sizes correctly.
Capital Justification – An international confectionery manufacturer proved that a proposed multi-million pound upgrade of their depositing process would significantly reduce unit costs and increase margin.
Proof of Concept – The expansion of a salad factory was validated to ensure that the proposed chill stores would meet peak production demands.
Simulation models encompass a dynamic animation reflecting the status of all aspects of the model. For example, WIP levels fall and rise in accordance with demand and production respectively, bins can be seen moving though complex networks of conveyors, etc. The animated screen makes use of icons to represent the products and equipment. In the latest simulation software, leading edge graphical technology is used to provide accurate 3d animations which are immediately recognisable as scaled accurate models of the real facilities. This provides a superb communication medium for all interested parties.
Companies using simulation include: Heineken, Carlsberg-Tetley, Guinness, Unilever, Kraft, Coca-Cola and Nestle. Typical simulation software used in this sector include Flexsim, Arena, Simul8 and Witness.
This paper was written by Saker Solutions Limited, an independent supplier of simulation services. Using experience gained in over 30 years of working in industry, Saker staff have been involved in applying simulation to a wide range of application areas. Saker has the ability to help clients achieve real business benefits from the use of this exciting technology.
Saker operates in partnership with a variety of organisations to ensure that clients get the right solutions for their requirements. With a depth of experience in providing simulation services to a large variety of major companies, Saker can offer consulting and training services as well as working with clients to help identify the right simulation software to use. In addition Saker Solutions can offer support for a variety of simulation products including Witness, Simul8 and Flexsim. For more information contact Saker Solutions at email@example.com or call 01789 762255
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