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Customer Story

How Deccan used the PI System™ to go deeper while staying flexible

Green pasture being sprayed with chemicals
  • Challenge
    Frequent changes to production lines were creating unnecessary downtime, cash flow issues, and excess inventory problems for Deccan.
  • Solution
    Use the PI System as the backbone of a phased approach to gaining deeper insight into assets, inventory, and production processes.
  • Benefits
    Cost savings from identifying $10 million in excess inventory and $500k/month in process improvements; growing predictive ability.

Every manufacturer wants to reduce downtime, but for Deccan Fine Chemicals, the need to keep things moving along is especially critical. A key supplier to the Global Top 5 agrochemical companies, Deccan operates four highly-automated, multipurpose chemical manufacturing plants in India. Because Deccan is a custom manufacturer, every production batch is different. Raw materials, equipment, reactors, and processes all must come together in a precisely orchestrated ballet for each production run, while being able to change for every new order.

With the parameters changing every time a new batch comes in, how can Deccan keep its processes efficient? Deccan decided to invest in digital transformation and found that whether your plant is making a new product every few months or focusing on a single product, the key to wringing waste and unnecessary downtime out of the process is the same: Using data to drive action.

The PI web API is a really cool API. You can do a lot of things, and you can pretty much get whatever data you want.
Jagan Buddharaju
Chief operations officer at Deccan Fine Chemicals

Smarter manufacturing: a phased approach

Digital transformation generally requires careful planning to execute well, but in Deccan’s case, the challenge was especially intense. As a rapidly growing company whose customers are among the world’s largest agrochemical corporations, Deccan needs to be ready to act quickly to fulfill each new order, which means having the right inventory on hand. But having too much inventory sitting unused creates unnecessary expense. And with orders constantly changing and being rescheduled, it can be difficult to plan ahead.

“It’s a different kind of challenge to build the line. You don’t know which instrument to buy, because you don’t know which chemical is going to go in the next campaign,” said Jagan Buddharaju, chief operations officer of Deccan, at a presentation during the OSIsoft Regional Seminar in Mumbai in 2019.

Deccan decided to use the PI System as a single source of truth across the enterprise, creating the backbone for a phased approach to plant optimization. Rather than tackle a companywide optimization effort all at once, Deccan decided to approach the task of identifying production inefficiencies in three stages. First, the company took an in-depth look at operations intelligence: inventory, ordering, accounts payable and receivable, and asset availability. The second step was to gain more insight into processes: monitoring production lines, collecting real-time data on raw materials and process deviations, and tracking alarms.

The third step, process optimization, builds on the insight acquired in the previous two phases and is still in progress. Armed with a deep understanding of production processes, and rich data on the company’s assets, inventory, and financials, Deccan is developing advanced analysis tools to define “golden batch” parameters, predict equipment problems, and optimize processes for greater yield and quality. With manufacturing processes as complicated as the ones Deccan handles regularly, every source of inefficiency that can be identified and avoided makes an impact on the bottom line.

“When you are in this business with a flexible manufacturing model, you can’t afford to have reactors un-utilized,” Buddharaju said. “So we have to have a very deep insight into which assets are used, which campaigns they’re being used in, which reactions they’re making.

Deccan remote processing monitorRemote process monitoring — access to real-time process data.

Digital transformation drives cost reduction

Deccan’s digital transformation journey is still a work in progress, but the company is already seeing results. During the first phase of the process, Deccan identified $10 million worth of excess inventory, streamlined the company’s holdings of raw materials, saved roughly $500,000 a month in process improvements, and freed up $3 million in reductions to vendor advances through better cash flow management.

As Deccan moves into the final, analytical phase of the digital transformation process, the company will focus first on detecting the early signs of condenser fouling. As Deccan builds its capacity to predict and prevent problems with condensers, the company plans to move on to predicting failures in reactors and other types of equipment.

Having achieved success with a strategy that starts with understanding the company’s resources, and progressively delves deeper into how those resources are used in processes, Deccan is now in the process of applying those lessons in a broader way across the enterprise.

“If you identify the raw materials which are impacted, and narrow down the process quality parameters of those raw materials, you’ll be definitely improving your yields,” Buddharaju said.

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