When you’ve met all the challenges of growing the perfect vegetable, you don’t want to run into problems once it passes the farm gate. VegPro is Canada’s largest producer of vegetables farmed in its own fields before being washed, packaged and shipped to the tables of discriminating consumers. You might recognize the Fresh Attitude brand packages at your local grocery store. With farms and packing plants located in southern Quebec, British Columbia and Florida, VegPro strives to supply its customers across North America with maximum freshness all year long, and in under three days! When your mission is so demanding, operational performance becomes of utmost importance, says Daniel Morin, IT Director at VegPro. Mr. Morin has been with VegPro for nearly two years. While VegPro’s success on the farm has been a consistent strength (as millions of fresh produce lovers would confirm), the company identified opportunities for improvement in the efficiency and performance of its washing and packaging operations. In a business where perishability is an issue, production downtime, response time and enhanced visibility into scheduling and operations were all areas for improvement.
• Improving user adoption of operational management and performance systems
• Improving response time to revenue impacting production events
• Improving accuracy and eliminating duplication of production event data
• Gaining more control over product and process quality
• Clearer visibility into performance and causes of variability
• Reducing production and delivery delays
Prior to implementing Ekho, the company was using a manufacturing execution system from one of the big-tier providers to the food and beverage industry. It was complex, difficult to use and inflexible. “We simply could not configure it to match our processes and users were getting frustrated,” observed Mr. Morin. VegPro also had a prior separate paperless factory system in place. The forms were too basic, could not be adapted to VegPro’s specific processes, and did not allow for advanced capabilities such as automated event responses or reaction triggers. The result was that operators’ use of the forms was waning and, perhaps due to their mounting frustration, managers began to see errors and deficiencies in data gathered through those forms. The lack of user adoption and difficulty in having prior systems match their process lead to inaccurate data, slower response times to production events and ultimately created the risk of production delays.
Ekhosoft’s answer was to deploy its off-the-shelf MES modules for Electronic Logs, Production, Quality, Downtime, Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and KPI Management. The solutions were configured to VegPro’s actual processes and delivered significant improvements in event-data accuracy, workflow adherence, and performance monitoring and analysis. When asked why VegPro chose Ekho, Mr. Morin said, “I knew Ekho, I knew what it could do and I trusted the technology. I knew it would resolve the issues we were facing with our previous systems.”
Not only can all production event data now be captured electronically, but the Ekho forms are easy to use, easy to configure and align with VegPro’s processes. They cover quality control, metal detection and pH controls, and can be digitally signed. Where appropriate, they can be used to intelligently respond to events with automated triggers and reactions based on VegPro’s business rules. Monitoring and Analysis — Ekho monitors and analyzes performance and OEE at the line and factory level. Data — ranging from chlorine levels in cleaning basins to factory temperatures —are provided in real time. Dashboards comparing performance of different lines and factories highlight operational gaps and help drive new efficien-cies. In the case of production events, stoppages are recorded, categorized and analyzed. Real-time KPI dashboards support speedy resolution
Ekho delivers ultimate flexibility. Ekhosoft deployed its solution for VegPro at the same time the vegetable producer was implementing a new cloud-based ERP platform. Once the ERP is in place, Ekho will be fully integrated with it, supporting a bi-directional flow of information such as production orders, inventory transactions and quality data. The solution is already integrated with OSISoft’s PI System to make use of real-time infrastructure for collecting and sharing process related data. Integration with Power BI provides the capability for users to generate their own dashboards, KPIs and reports.
Although only just in the post-implementation period, VegPro reports that Ekho has already yielded clear efficiency gains in production processes. In addition, its real-time OEE and performance reports have significantly reduced stoppage times and associated lost production. This is one of Ekho’s biggest advantages, according to Vegpro. “Now, our operators are more engaged in using electronic forms and the MES applications. I am confident this will lead to improved data accuracy, improved OEE and, ultimately, very satisfied VegPro clients,” said Mr. Morin. On the factory floor, operators who had experienced frustration with the previous system report that they love to use Ekho forms. They find them easy to use and they prevent data inaccuracies. Operators also appreciate how the automated workflows and action triggers provide them with a defined process to follow. Production is now better planned, structured and executed. With Ekho in place, VegPro can rest assured that manufacturing operations are optimized for it to delivery fresh vegetables within its 3-day target!