Workflow Software Connects People and Machines

Sept. 16, 2013
How to Organize, Standardize, Document and Rationalize Industrial Processes and Procedures
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Nancy Bartels is Control's managing editor. You can contact her at [email protected] or check out her Google+ profile.

"ArchestrA Workflow coordinates human- and system-centric tasks smoothly and effectively," began Stephen Golemme, Invensys technology manager, control room operations, as he walked his audience through the functionality of the business process management module of the ArchestrA system platform. "It standardizes work processes and procedures across all domains, such as production, maintenance and quality." Golemme spoke last week at the Invensys Foxboro & Triconex Global Client Conference in San Antonio, Texas.Among ArchestrA Workflow's many talents are the ability to monitor procedure execution in real time, produce an audit trail of activities, provide a step-by-step history of a particular task, time-stamp it, enforce company policies and regulatory compliance and automate any necessary sign-offs.The benefits of such a system include eliminating paper, providing the ability to measure and improve performance of specific processes, and automating complex operations across disparate business applications and people. It also provides an end-to-end perspective of specific operating procedures, and defines and manages how activities are executed, including the interaction of people and/or systems, and it works equally well for simple or complex tasks, said Golemme.ArchestrA Workflow can read information from machines, record events automatically or respond to operator data entry. "An operator can send an event and its context to the Workflow system to execute a particular necessary procedure," Golemme explained. This provides vital information that can later be used for training and continuous improvement of both operator performance and the processes and procedures themselves. 

ArchestrA Workflow can be integrated with production software, batch recipes and also, by means of "connectors" (integration packages for specific systems), with third-party ERP, MES or management and business systems. It automatically communicates back and forth to acknowledge messages via text messages or email. It can also escalate a situation to another layer of management if the situation requires it. The latest version of ArchestrA Workflow also has an app available to make it accessible from smart phones or tablets. 

"It's just like building a flow chart — no programming is involved."  Invensys' Stephen Golemme discussed how a variety of process manufacturers are using ArchestrA workflow to automate and enforce consistent work processes.

Golemme went on to illustrate the flexibility and usefulness of ArchestrA Workflow with a number of use cases from the process industries, including life sciences, specialty chemicals, power and food. For example, Golemme outlined a maintenance department scenario in which an event occurs on the shop floor. ArchestrA workflow automatically captures the event and its context and communicates that to the maintenance department via an email or SMS. At the same time, the supervisor is notified and a maintenance technician performs an inspection and submits a report. The supervisor decides whether the situation warrants holding up production. If that choice is made, Workflow can automatically communicate with the production scheduler and the EAM application, where a work order is created. At the same time, the scheduler automatically updates the production schedule. "This eliminates a lot of dead time around scheduling and assigning tasks. All the schedules are in the system and nobody has to run around checking who's available to do the work," explained Golemme. Once the work is completed, the technician notifies the EAM, and the production operator is notified to restart production — all automatically. Automation also ensures consistency, said Golemme.  "Automating procedures eliminates the temptation to skip steps. Electronic enablement of existing procedures with auditing and tracking ensures that tasks are performed the same way every time." It's not just the maintenance department that benefits from ArchestrA Workflow. A power industry customer extended the workflow capability in the Avantis EAM system by adding ArchestrA Workflow to implement a rigorous process around lock-out/tag-out (LOTO) activities. The result is consistent and safe execution of the lock-out/tag-out process. There is now a complete genealogy of each LOTO instance, and every activity is time-stamped. Every time a procedure executes, that particular execution is documented and captured.And getting procedures into the system is easy. "It's just like building a flow chart," said Golemme. "No programming is involved." In highly regulated industries, such as life sciences, ArchestrA Workflow can support a paperless environment and electronic signature capability. A manufacturer of biomarkers for cancer protection required certified processes according to Title 21 CFR Part 11. The company wanted to establish a paperless system that would include electronic records and signature capture. Using ArchestrA Workflow, it set up routes for review and approval of documents. Because of Workflow's flexibility, which allows systems to grow over time, it created an operations information infrastructure that simplified the installation of future applications.

Interested customers can go to to see a working version of ArchestrA Workflow. This free version allows users to build their own scenarios to see how they can benefit from the system.