4 Under-utilized features of the FactoryTalk ProductionCentre platform

Posted by Mario de Vera

Mar 20, 2014 9:00:00 AM

Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk ProductionCentre (FTPC) Manufacturing Execution System has proven its capability and reliability in a wide array of industries spanning both discrete and process manufacturing. The platform’s flexibility has spawned more targeted industry products in the form of FactoryTalk PharmaSuite, FactoryTalk CPGSuite and FactoryTalk AutoSuite. Many manufacturers have used this MES product to create custom functionality in other areas that support manufacturing such as in receiving, shipping, quality, and R&D and RMA operations.

There are features inherent to FTPC in which companies have already invested but are not putting to work.  Among these under-utilized features are:

  • SPC (Statistical Process Control)
  • Material or Inventory tracking
  • RMA (Returned Merchandise Authorization)
  • Reporting

After reviewing the benefits of each, you can decide if your company should take advantage of these features.

Statistical Process Control Module (SPC)

Many manufacturers collect various types of data using the data collection set object. FTPC’s basic SPC module supports the Western Electric rules and can read the data collection set tables. Since this module already has all the APIs needed to create R charts and S charts, UCL’s, LCL’s, etc., there is no need to interface a separate SPC software to the production database. The solution can be designed into the GUI that the operator or engineer is interfacing with, and/or an alert can be shown on-screen or sent via email or text message describing the instability detected in the process. 

Material or Inventory Tracking

Material or inventory tracking functionality can be created using transactions associated with the carrier object. The location object can also be used to supplement and provide additional information as to the movement of materials. This is especially useful during quarter-end or year-end inventory count processes. An expensive sub-assembly or material can be tracked as it is being received.  You will know where it’s been stored (bin, cabinet, refrigerator, shelf, etc.).  Then, using a check-out process, you will be able to follow it through manufacturing as it gets consumed.   Such ability not only helps planners with lean initiatives, it also supports investigations of any missing products. An interface to the ERP or MRP system can be created to report movements and quantities where needed and trigger a warning to a planner or buyer to purchase the material that is running low.

Returned Merchandise Authorization (RMA)

For discrete manufacturers that have an RMA process, the RMA functionality in FTPC will support the various aspects of the RMA operation:

  • generating and tracking an RMA number or order
  • receiving the returned product
  • analysis and troubleshooting
  • performing repairs
  • shipping repaired product

A big advantage of using FTPC for RMA is that the repair technicians will be able to view all the manufacturing data associated with the unit. Any new repair data will also be associated to the same unit for further analysis by the engineering team and provide them with the data to improve manufacturing, or to notify the supplier of the faulty component.

Sometimes, a unit cannot be repaired and may have to be scrapped. However, some of the expensive components such as batteries, PC boards, and memory or CPU modules can be salvaged, re-conditioned and re-used, or recycled. The RMA functionality enables the un-consumption of components and placement back into inventory. And, if you have an integration between FTPC and your ERP system, FTPC can automatically notify the ERP system of the Return Merchandise Authorization and of the components returned to inventory. 


Many companies that use FTPC not only store the transactional data typical with MES systems but also quality, test and process data that need to be part of the EBR (Electronic Batch Record) or DHR (Device History Record). This treasure trove of data should be mined to gain insights into your company’s manufacturing (and perhaps, other) processes. The data mining should be performed on the historical database or ODS (Operational Data Store). This ODS is separate from the production database which is tuned for capturing data to ensure maximum production efficiency.

Other than the EBR or DHR, many companies will only have some “typical” WIP or yield reports from their MES system. There are many other reports that can be generated with the system. Examples include but not limited to:

  • SPC reports,
  • quality reports on materials
  • reports on the quality process itself
  • inventory tracking
  • material expirations
  • Performance comparisons of production lines, work cells, equipment, operators, shifts, along with KPIs, and RMAs.

For a small fee, the integrated Jasper Reports tool can be turned on and utilized to generate reports within the FTPC environment. However, any reporting tool (Business Objects, Crystal Reports, SSRS, FactoryTalk VantagePoint, etc.) that can connect to the FTPC databases can certainly be utilized to generate reports.

Improved ROI

As with any IT system, you need to evaluate the benefits of adding features, the impact on your processes and end users, and the time and effort required to ramp.  However, you’ve already made the investment in the functionality; consider taking advantage of the benefits.



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Topics: Tips and Tricks, Rockwell Automation FactoryTalk

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