Resource Management

Case Study: A New Manufacturing Execution System Can Benefit Ceramic and Glass Production

Advanced software tools can allow ceramic and glass manufacturers to plan and control production processes more efficiently.

May 1, 2014
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Kerakoll was founded in 1968 in Sassuolo, a small Italian town at the heart of Europe’s largest tile production district. Today, the company is an innovator in providing green building solutions. Kerakoll employs more than 1,340 people, with 12 global branches and 10 production plants throughout Europe. With more than 1,700 100% eco-friendly products, company revenue is above ?300 million (~ $413 million).

Kerakoll is committed to researching and achieving innovative solutions that safeguard the environment and improve health and quality of life through eco-friendly, naturally breathable products. These products help prevent most common illnesses caused by indoor pollution. Green building is now being represented as a new building philosophy that minimizes environmental impact and health hazards while improving the overall quality of home life.


Project Motivations

In recent years, Kerakoll’s marketplace has grown in complexity. It has become more demanding and more focused on flexibility (e.g., new needs, new products) and product customization, with decreasing sales at SKU level. Customer service was (and is) becoming more and more critical due to increased competition. Such elements have generated an impact on the company’s internal processes, including new packaging formats, increased high-quality standards, an increased number of SKUs and raw materials to manage, a reduction of production campaign length, and an increase in changeover activities (with a resulting increase of scraps and inefficiencies).

This complexity needed to be supported by more adequate software tools in the operations processes. Production planning and control was mainly achieved using common automation office tools, but these could no longer sustain the new challenges. Data collected from the floor were sparse and unavailable in real time. Tight delivery schedules were posing a challenge, and very little information was available to help the management identify critical situations in advance.

In response, the company decided that one of the primary requirements was to integrate to the company’s ERP system an advanced, finite-capacity scheduling tool for resources that is capable of easily combining with machine supervision software. The Plannet Compass manufacturing execution system (MES) software is designed to collect and control all real-time data concerning shop floor activities, to allow monitoring during production, chart manufacturing key performance indicators (KPIs), and manage production tracking and traceability.

The implementation of Compass software, along with the introduction of appropriate organizational changes, allows manufacturing companies to improve the performance of logistics and production processes, thus contributing to increase business competitiveness. These systems help improve company performance through innovative, targeted and flexible solutions—solutions that can be integrated with any ERP system and able to consider specific requirements, as well as to adapt to the industrial and business processes and environments of each customer.

“In 2011, we decided to implement Compass in Kerakoll, starting with a ‘pilot’ project in our Zimella plant where we produce paints and coverings, to progressively roll it out in the other group manufacturing plants,” says Stefano Ghisellini, product manager in the central engineering department. “The new scheduling and MES software has helped us to maintain our distinctive, high-level customer service performance, despite the relevant increase in business complexity.”


A New Manufacturing Execution System

The Kerakoll MES application is based on a data collection infrastructure that includes touchscreen panel installations in the different departments. These panels are integrated with the PLC devices supervising all production lines. Custom and specific data collection procedures have been developed for each department in order to take into account the distinctive features related to the manufacturing process: doling out of components, bulk production, quality control, and packaging.

The shop floor procedures have been designed to obtain all data required to produce the most accurate and feasible finite-capacity schedules, as well as to perform statistical analysis (production KPIs). Such goals have also been achieved with minimum effort by floor operators; the system is based on procedures with different levels of automation ranging from manual to completely automatic.

The main functions of Kerakoll MES panels include:

• Display of line/machine production schedule at resource level

• Activity transaction posting (time and quantity)

• Downtimes causal posting

• Sampling

• Quality control procedures

• Production batch posting (tracking function)

All data collected are constantly reviewed to measure and analyze production KPIs (e.g., machine and labor efficiency, downtimes, scrap, etc.) using COMPASS standard tools.


Finite Capacity Scheduling

Customer service is increasingly important in the marketplace. The implementation of the Compass finite-capacity scheduling tool, natively integrated with floor supervision systems, has allowed Kerakoll to maintain the highest standards in service, assuring ex works delivery time (from customer order data entry to truck shipment ) within 36 hours—despite the marketplace’s growing complexity.

The first and undisputed driver in Kerakoll’s scheduling model is the requested end date of production orders. This is always the primary goal to meet when defining the production schedule. The main constraint is a finite capacity of resources (e.g., lines, machines and labor) as well as semi-finished and raw materials availability. Manufacturing orders are automatically split into batches to generate production runs compatible with the capacity of the specific (alternative) mixer allocated within the frozen horizon.

The dynamic sequencing function available in the Compass scheduling engine is a tool designed to optimize production sequences while minimizing changeover time. In this context, the sequencing rules are designed to minimize washing and cleaning procedures in the mixing department, while bulk and size are the drivers for the packaging department. Finally, operations at the tinting department are sequenced taking into account size, priority and carrier. The production schedules generated are used to designate materials picking lists, which are then dispatched to the warehouse management system.


Results Achieved

Thanks to this implementation, Kerakoll has achieved the following results:

• Ex works delivery time reduction, from customer order entry to truck shipment within 36 hours

• Resource optimization, including labor, machines, warehouse space

• Waste reduction

• Real-time control on production events

• Availability and sharing of information at a central level  

 For more information, visit Kerakoll’s website is located at

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