Solving planning challenges in manufacturing liquid chemicals


The chemical manufacturing industry has shown impressive growth over the past 25 years. Since the 80s, the global chemical industry has grown by seven percent annually. If current trends continue, global chemical markets are expected to grow an average three percent in the next 20 years.

However, rising global competition and challenging customer demands are forcing chemical manufacturers to prioritize operational excellence. In addition, the increasing complexity of organizations – with evolving production networks, global operations, and an increasingly wide range of product variations – requires companies to continuously focus and improve their operational performance.

Overcoming tank planning challenges

The storage and manufacturing of liquid chemicals is an intricate process. By their very nature, liquid materials have to occupy tanks. In terms of storage, tanks cannot store more than one type of liquid, even if the tank has excess capacity. This is in stark contrast to a warehouse, which can store different non-fluid or discrete items as long as there is space for them.

In manufacturing, multiple tanks are needed in consecutive production stages. Increasing the complexity of planning an optimal schedule is the fact that liquid components are also stored in the tanks themselves, therefore taking up a production resource – as opposed to non-fluid materials which can be stored elsewhere prior to use.

In order to create an efficient schedule for liquid chemical manufacturing, the availability of all tanks has to be taken into account when scheduling a production batch. This ‘tank occupation requirement’ creates a high dependency between the plans of consecutive production stages; a disruption up or downstream can quickly propagate through all stages of production. The most obvious choice for one batch with the best fit in terms of size, availability, etc., may cause delays either upstream or downstream for other batches.

A scheduling system that can synchronize multiple process stages and consider the inter-relationships of different batches will maximize the efficiency of the entire production process.

Pipes have their challenges too

Pipes that join tanks can only transport one material at a time, and – like tanks – have unique operational requirements of their own. There are also routing constraints – there may not be any pipes connected between some process and tank combinations, or some connections may not be appropriate for certain products. These factors make it challenging for planners make quick re-routing decisions when disruptions occur. Delayed decisions have a direct impact on efficiency and throughput.

Routing and product constraints are best handled with a scheduling solution that accounts for simultaneous feeding and consuming resources, connection and product-dependent constraints, and multiple flow rates.

Finding the perfect fit for your scheduling needs

With the number of factors (tank properties, different orders, pipe connections and many more) and the occurrence of last-minute disruptions, it is not feasible to solely depend on human planners as they have reduced visibility over operations and a limited view of the consequences of their planning decisions. In order to look at the thousands, sometimes even millions of possibilities as well as their consequences, planners need the support of intelligent planning technology – algorithms that support the generation of a new plan with one click of the ‘optimize’ button.

The only way to truly optimize chemical operations is with a 100%-fit solution that incorporates best practices and end-to-end planning. A perfect-fit solution for chemical manufacturing takes into account the characteristics and constraints of all your products and resources, including tanks. Furthermore, it understands how these connect and interact with one another. To learn more about tank scheduling for liquid chemicals, download our brochure.

If you’ve already optimized your tank scheduling, that’s great! But there’s still more that you can do to give your business a boost. Limited visibility on the effects of your planning decisions on your supply chain and your future business performance can make executing efficient decisions in your S&OP meetings very challenging. That’s where sales and operations planning optimization comes in.

Join the “Catalyze your S&OP process with Quintiq” webinar, organized in partnership with Involvation. Learn the strategies you need to:

  • Reach a consensus forecast by collaboration
  • Turn information overload into information advantage
  • Use scenarios and KPIs to analyze the effect of upside forecast and what-if scenarios

Register now

This post was first published on LinkedIn.