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This another blog in a continuing series discussing what makes for a resilient manufacturing organization. If you missed the opening discussion please read part 1.a summary of the topic and part 2 the introduction.

Flexible capacity allows an organization to response to many types of demand fluctuations.  An ever increasing number of organizations are using this concept to create a competitive edge. Being able to easily make changes to the product or production volume allows them to respond quickly to shifts in market demand.  Supporting this requires the ability to operate manufacturing equipment at different production rates, starting and stopping the operations at will, and to have ability to vary staffing levels and hours of work dependent on the demand. This flexibility is comprised primarily of the following abilities:

  1. The ability to produce a variety of products on the same equipment and processes,
  2. The ability to produce the same products on a variety of different equipment and processes,
  3. The ability to product new products on existing machines,
  4. And the ability of the equipment to accommodate design changes in the products being manufactured.


The resilient organization uses the first two concepts to mitigate unexpected disruptions, the latter two to accommodate the disruptions caused by new products and designs. Being able to produce products in multiple ways, using different equipment, and process allows the manufacturing demand to be transfer to another manufacturing process when there are problems with the originally scheduled line.

In today’s environment of utilizing a facility to its maximum, this most likely will cause an overloaded capacity situation on the new line.   This then becomes another scheduling and optimization problem, which lines are capable of producing the product, what are their production rates (higher, lower than the  original schedule), are there other products schedule on the lines, can they also be moved, is staff available to run these newly scheduled processes, can the
schedule be shifted to accommodate the new demand and still satisfy current scheduled demand.

Of course, depending on the type of interruption, it might be possible to run the line at a slower rate than originally scheduled.  This would of course impact any other products scheduled on the line, any maintenance scheduled (since the line would be in operation), and potentially the staffing requirements.

In a multi plant environment, more options are available, depending if there is an overlap in production capabilities between the various plants. When there is a disruption in production at a plant the demand can be spread and transferred between other plants in the organizations network.  As more options are available to mitigate the interruption, determining the solution becomes more complicated. With multiple plants as part of the solution, visibility into their production schedules and capacities is essential, raw materials requirements need to be adjusted (the materials now will have to be delivered to the new production plants), transportation requirements need to change to get the materials there, and the product to the customers.  In some cases,  depending on how frequently the new production facility produces the product, other things might be required. For example:

  1. Safety data sheets updated for new raw materials and finished products,
  2. Permits to manufacturing the products ,
  3. Emergency procedures updated,
  4. Additional staff,
  5. Addition training,
  6. Permission to run the facility outside normal production hours,
  7. Operational risks assessed, and
  8. Risk abatement procedures created, and implemented


Being able to keep track of this information, ensuring that permits, certifications, and permissions are not expired, that staff training is up-to-date is a complex process, especially if the organization is not called to execute this option very often or at all.  Any support system put in place should facilitate the tracking of all relevant information so that the mitigation options are not reduced due to expired paper work.

Have you faced issues with creating a resilient organization? Is it possible to build a resilient organization in the chemical industry? Feel free to discuss/share stories about these questions along with manufacturing in the chemicals industry in general in the comment space below.  

Or join the conversation at @SAP4Chemicals