2004 Winner Manufacturing Excellence Award for Customer Service & Support

Granular Graphite MES Application

The Opportunity…

A producer of graphite electrodes used in Electric-Arc Furnace Applications determined it had more profitable markets for one of it’s by-products – granular graphite – using make to order production methods.

By milling, screening and classifying the granular graphite into a more uniform product, the market might bear a higher price and therefore a higher profitability for the company. An analysis of the potential markets revealed the new granular products would require stricter, customer-driven demands for quality assurance sampling, lot testing, reporting, container packaging and labeling. With a limited budget for new personnel, the opportunity was to create an automated system capable of ensuring the products conformed to a potentially unlimited number of new customer specifications.

The Solution…

A database was created to allow sales personnel to create and specify custom sampling plans, testing plans, reports, bar code labels and container packaging specifications. A specification record was then created for each product based on a default plan. The default plan could then be overridden for a specific customer.

Upon creating each container, specification instructions are downloaded to the appropriate PLC devices – for execution of mill-screen-classify sequences, container fill weights, automated sample collection and bar code printer setup. Filled containers are lotted based on the customer order and samples are used to release the lot of containers prior to shipping. Lot sample test data is recorded and in some cases automatically recorded from on-line test devices. An RF hand-held device is used to allow a single operator to perform the necessary transactions from anywhere in the production area which eliminates the need for multiple fixed PCs on the production floor.

The Result…

The customer is able to meet the requirements of the customer and guarantee their products conform to specification with a minimal amount of labor and data entry costs. The need for training and paper documentation for a complex and large set of specifications has been greatly reduced or eliminated. The customer is able to enjoy higher profitability by penetrating and services a higher-end market.

Plans are to expand the current system into the original granular graphite packaging area in 2004 and to replace their RF handheld with a newer PocketPC device system.