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Case Studies > ITS Ensures INEOS ChlorVinyls Business Management is Based on Trusted Information

ITS Ensures INEOS ChlorVinyls Business Management is Based on Trusted Information

INEOS is a global manufacturer of petrochemicals, speciality chemicals and oil products. With 2011 sales of $43 billion, INEOS is ranked as one the world's largest chemical groups. The company comprises 15 businesses, each with a major chemical company heritage, and a production network that spans 51 manufacturing facilities in 11 countries throughout the world. INEOS ChlorVinyls is the world’s third largest producer of PVC and with nine manufacturing sites in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and Sweden, employ over 3,000 people.

Since its inception, INEOS ChlorVinyls Ltd (ICV) has relied on leading technologies to underpin its manufacturing assets and create strategic opportunities. For many years, the ICV site at Runcorn, UK had depended upon its legacy BPCS system (then widely used for MRP across major manufacturing organisations) to feed information into its back office systems, but now accepted that BPCS had reached the end of its useful life. “BPCS had served our business well over the years but we were aware of its shortcomings and the impact that these could have on the ongoing growth and profitability of our business operations,” explained Mike Tyrrell, ICV’s Plant Data Systems Manager and SAP Interfaces team leader. “One of the key issues was that once production data had been fed into BPCS, it was impossible to automatically correct any errors which meant that inaccurate information was more likely to be passed to our management and financial applications.”

The migration of errors

BPCS relied upon the InfoPlus.21 Data Historian and the Plant Reporting system, FUSION - a zero footprint, web-based reporting and data entry tool developed by ITS - as its prime source of production information. In turn, FUSION received data from each of the 15 production units on a nightly basis. However, the existing BPCS interface was very restrictive in its behaviour, as once the data was sent to BPCS there was no mechanism to automatically correct the data. “The vast majority of this information came from flow meters and other measuring devices and with over 200 feeds a night, it was crucial that this information was highly accurate if we were to effectively monitor production and produce meaningful daily reports on our stock and working capital positions,” continued Mike Tyrrell. “If any errors occurred at this stage, such as incorrect readings or failures in our measurement devices, these were fed automatically into our back office applications, which meant that we were not confident in managemeninformation and reports.”

In theory, these errors could be identified and manually corrected in each of the back office systems. In reality, this was a time consuming and laborious process: unless the errors were corrected quickly and in each application, information became disjointed and although small, individual errors would not affect the overall reported position of ICV, the cumulative effect over a period of time meant that it was becoming more and more difficult for ICV to obtain a complete, accurate and trusted picture of the business on a daily basis.

A strategic decision

ICV took the strategic decision to replace BPCS with SAP. “SAP was already used in our European operations and we were confident in its ability to deliver the capabilities that we needed, including accurate and up-to-date information and support our growth,” explained Mike Tyrrell. “We approached our technology partner, ITS and asked them to manage the entire design, development and implementation stages of the FUSION-SAP interface for this business critical project.”

ITS has been ICV’s preferred technology partner for some 15 years and has in-depth knowledge of ICV’s’ business processes, procedures, requirements and objectives. Its FUSION product is one of the cornerstones of ICV’s’ operations and, as Mike Tyrrell explained, ITS was the logical choice to take responsibility for the SAP interface implementation. “We did not have the highly specialised skill sets in-house to ensure the success of the interface work and it simply did not make sound financial or business sense to recruit additional IT staff,” he continued. “ITS knew our business, had a wealth of knowledge and experience in developing applications for FUSION, and has a track record in designing, developing and implementing solutions.”

“The parameters and objectives of this business critical project were both clear and concise,” explained Malcolm Knott, ITS’ Managing Director. “Having decided to migrate from BPCS to SAP, ICV needed an automatic process to transfer the daily production data from InfoPlus.21 to SAP and to have the ability to resend corrected information from InfoPlus.21 to SAP so that the back office systems were working with accurate, up-to-date and trusted information.”

Close cooperation at all levels

Working closely with ICV stake holders and the IT department, ITS began the design phase of the project. This proceeded smoothly, even when the work required close liaison with an external SAP specialist based in Ireland who was providing some of the custom code. To ensure that each stage of the project was completed on time and to specification, an ITS team of developers was based permanently at the ICV Site in Runcorn Cheshire so that each development stage could be rigorously tested in the existing and complex environment against live systems and data.

With development and testing completed, the SAP-based system went live, initially running in parallel with the existing BPCS system to ensure that any issues could be identified and addressed before they could affect day-to-day operations. During the development and testing processes, ITS provided ICV’s IT department with training and knowledge-share to ensure that they were familiar with the interface system and could undertake maintenance and support tasks. After a two month “bedding-in” period, ICV was satisfied that the interface was robust and was delivering the capabilities and features that were critical to its future business.

A solution fit for purpose

Now live the new SAP system is delivering to ICV’s requirements. The automated process for transferring the data from InfoPlus.21 to SAP is based around a modern and reliable interface as opposed to the old file-based file transfer mechanism and gives ICV the ability to correct inaccurate or missing data so that daily management decisions can now be based on trusted information. A further benefit is that, as ICV acquires new businesses, the integration of their information feeds into the InfoPlus.21/SAP system will be relatively straight forward.

Enhancement and refinement of the system is ongoing, but the ITS/ICV partnership continues with ITS providing mission-critical support and consultancy services across the ICV IT infrastructure.

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