Gauteng, South Africa − Struggling with a manufacturing information management system that was installed in 1992 and last updated in 2000, SA Mint decided that it was time for a radical upgrade that would involve the latest MES and EMI technologies and approaches commensurate with the company’s product excellence and world-wide reputation.
The manufacturing process at SA Mint is characterised by a need for efficiency, security and tight production accounting – not to mention consistent product quality and dependable automation. The company bears a unique responsibility for delivering high quality products consistently, on time and in large volumes. This is an environment that has little or no tolerance for unreliable performance or lack of control and which has to meet the budget constraints of 21st century economics.
The production process is quite complex and has a large number of steps that must be followed precisely to make a single coin but, although this was already being handled, the real problem lay with management information – there wasn’t any. This meant that business continuity management couldn’t be guaranteed and reporting was a tedious business which was seldom on time to be effective.
Other concerns were that the existing solution couldn’t be integrated with others, depended on only one person for support and was based on very old operating and database management systems as well as an ancient technology infrastructure that was no longer supported.
“In 2005, a decision was made to completely overhaul and enhance our factory systems,” says Lungile Binza, CIO at the South African Mint Company Ltd. “This was the start of project Pelo – a Sesotho word for “heart” as this would be the heart of our operations. The plant needed a system that would provide material traceability, ensure data integrity and provide a solution that is flexible enough to accommodate changes in our manufacturing environment. The system would also have to assist with inventory optimisation by providing information about the availability and location of inventory items. We were looking forward to far greater visibility into our KPIs while the system facilitated production flow without compromising control or security at the same time as providing real-time production information including OEE.”
In 2010/1, after a false start, project Pelo was put back on track based on SA Mint’s business needs rather than the process requirements. “At the time of this restart, the MES workflow technology was brand new and there were no referral sites in South Africa. We knew that we couldn’t tolerate anything going wrong and adopting this technology was initially considered too risky and the proposals were rejected. We were not going to have a ‘guinea-pig experience’,” continues Binza. “But a top-level presentation by Wonderware Southern Africa (now IS³) showed us their commitment to a future where model-driven MES and workflow management would become the norm because that’s what customers wanted. This new paradigm would be introduced and supported, and training would be provided just as had happened with the rest of AVEVA’s product range, supplied by IS³. In fact, because of the needed human interaction and decision-making at the MES level, it soon became apparent that the integration of workflows would become the norm rather than the exception. Even so, the board of SA Mint insisted on introducing a system of checks and balances – but more about that later.”