Lubricant / Wax Producers

Lubricant / Wax Producers

Industry Competence

ORSOFT has been working with companies within the oil industry since its establishment in 1990. We have developed many software functions through projects for our clients and have steadily expanded our range of products. Through this work we have become familiar with the specific requirements of the oil industry and have learned to satisfy our clients with their full confidence in our solutions.

Extending ERP systems with an Add-On APS Solution

Oftentimes it is impossible for the oil industry to handle complex processes related to production and logistics scheduling as well as execution when using only a standard implementation of an ERP system – such as SAP ERP. ORSOFT provides ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench – an Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) system – for the handling of these industry specifics.

ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench can be used as an Add-On to SAP ERP – without the need for a second independent database, because it operates solely with SAP ERP data – with a Rich Client installation on a normal state-of-the-art user PC. For large-scale implementations, ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench can be implemented with its own Application Kernel Server, but even then it still uses SAP ERP data and interacts with SAP ERP like an Add-On.

ORSOFT is a member of the SAP Industry Value Network for Chemicals and SAP Industry Value Network for Consumer Products. Our solution ORSOFT LabScheduling is also available in the SAP Store.


Companies in the oil industry and related industries use ORSOFT solutions to supplement their existing ERP and tank management systems. These solutions cover processes along the entire supply chains of crude oil processing, fuel refinery, production of lube base oils and lubricants as well as wax and wax related products.

Tank Management

  • BP Refining and Petrochemicals GmbH
  • H&R GmbH & Co. KGaA

Continuous and Semi-Continuous Processes

  • H&R GmbH & Co. KGaA
  • Sasol Wax GmbH

Blending of Liquid Products in Multi-Purpose Plants

  • H&R GmbH & Co. KGaA
  • Klüber Lubrication München KG

Pipeline and Port Management for Feedstock Provision

  • BP Refining and Petrochemicals GmbH

Tactical SCM Production and Purchasing Planning, Product Costing

  • Sasol Wax GmbH

Container Filling and Bulk Loading of liquid products

  • H&R GmbH & Co. KGaA
  • Klüber Lubrication München KG
  • Sasol Wax GmbH

Base Oil / Base Component Production Scheduling

Typical Industries for the scenario:

  • lube oil refining
  • slack wax processing
  • chemical processing of vegetable oil

The individual processing units of a refinery, such as distillation, cracking or solvent extraction, are typically operated in an uninterrupted sequence of multiple day intervals with the same operation mode (called “block operation modes” or “runs”). Thus, they can be characterized as semi-continuous.

Each run may use a different crude oil mix and yield multiple products that must be processed further in consecutive production stages. This semi-continuous joint production must be scheduled based on demands (pull production) as well as deliveries (push production).

Lube oil refineries typically only use a few raw oil materials (e.g. vacuum gas oil, received from a crude oil refinery) as input streams to produce a variety of base oils over a number of different semi continuous processing stages, each using a single input stream and yielding multiple intermediate output streams.

These base oils are then either shipped directly or used in subsequent blending and filling facilities.

Similar business processes are used, for example, by companies who process slack waxes and other “residues” of a refinery to produce natural and synthetic paraffin wax as well as wax-related products, such as petroleum jellies, white oils and liquid paraffins. Their supply chain usually consists of base component production – similar to base oil production in its scheduling processes – blending and container filling or bulk loading.

“Base component planning” departments are responsible to schedule the various semi-continuous processing units over a medium-term planning horizon – based on strategic monthly planning figures – to ensure sufficient availability of base components for subsequent blending, filling and loading processes that usually need to be more flexible and can only reliably be scheduled over a short-term planning horizon.

Their business processes include scheduling processing units and tank allocation for intermediate tank farms and output tank farms with consideration of limited tank capacities and the subtleties of joint products that need to be processed in consecutive processing units.

ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench supports these business processes with the combination of standard APS and MES functions and specific functions that take the oil industries’ special requirements into account.

Detailed Scheduling of Base Oil Production and Tank Allocation

Base oil production schedules typically contain long runs on the distillation and shorter runs on the subsequent processing units with more variety of operation modes. It is important to create a “good” sequence of these operation modes to reduce changeover loss between runs. This can be accomplished through classification of operation modes by boiling points and aiming for a “wave” sequence, for example. Since consecutive runs should not differ too much in their boiling point class, production planning must span a longer time frame (e.g. three months).

Subsequent processing stages must be decoupled by storing the intermediate streams in a tank farm. This is often accomplished by using a given tank for different materials at different times or using a tank allocation sequence for a given stream. Detailed scheduling of base oil production is comprised of determining operation mode parameters (time interval, throughput), input and output streams (material, percentage) and tank allocation sequences for all production runs on all processing units; than matching strategic monthly planning figures, availability of input materials, and detailed requirements for bulk sales and subsequent blending and filling orders.

A base oil scheduling workframe within the ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench – using processing unit Gantt charts, tank histograms and detailed schedule editors – supports the planner in maintaining processing unit schedules and monitoring resulting stock levels at the input, intermediates and output tank farm.

The base oil scheduling workframe helps optimize production runs and tank sequences, utilize resources to their maximum capacity and observe all restrictions (e.g. tank limits) at the same time. A Gantt chart shows a typical resource allocation where a “boiling point wave” would indicate a good sequence of preferable changeovers for different qualities. Basic oil orders are displayed in a list and a detailed editor can be displayed for a single basic oil order.

A total current stock reconciliation supports the adjustment of daily stock by a rule-based validation of planned figures, with confirmed production and measurement results. This method delivers reliable results on total material stock levels.

ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench can process indirect reference values such as component percent quota or throughput. It calculates material stocks on plant level and in individual storage tanks at the same time. It can also simultaneously handle mass and volume figures using predefined, calculated or measured temperature dependent density. A storage location related unit model with automatic unit conversion allows different views on one issue.

The recipe model extends most ERP models with regards to multiple input and output streams and flexible tank sequences. The order model does the same for production orders with the possibility of multiple input and output streams.

Grundöl- / Grundkomponenten- Produktionsplanung

Blending Plant Detailed Scheduling

Typical Industries for the scenario:

  • blending of lubricants from base oils and additives
  • blending of wax-related products from base components and additives
  • blending of liquid products

Modern blending plants are often designed as highly flexible service units that process base components from various sources in order to create required blended bulk products. In addition to base components that are produced on site in the semi-continuous processing units, they often use base components provided by other production sites, purchased from other vendors or even provided by customers who produce base components but lack the capacity or knowledge for blending and filling.

This means that in addition to base components stored in the output tank farm of the refinery, base components may also enter the blending plant by just-in-time unloading of tank trucks or by transfer from containers, e.g. by a drum decanting unit. This sourcing situation may frequently change for a given range of target products due to adaptation of the provision situation to volatile pricing and availability of base components.

A similar flexibility can be found in additives used in the blending. These can be provided in storage tanks within the blending plant or enter the blending plant by just-in-time unloading of tank trucks or by transfer from containers (e.g. by a drum decanting unit). Quite often, additives need to be prepared prior to use (e.g. heated or pre-mixed with a base component).

A blending plant has a very high “inner complexity” which proves challenging for manual detailed scheduling. However, at the same it has significant potential for gaining efficiency by better scheduling. From the supply chain planning point of view, there is a focus on allocation of the blend orders to the storage tank with consideration of tank farm capacity, the availability of base components and additives, and the coordination with subsequent container filling or bulk loading processes.

“Blending and filling planning” departments are responsible for scheduling the blending, filling and tank truck loading over a short-term planning horizon – based on sales orders and strategic monthly planning figures – with a high rate of flexibility due to volatile sales requirements.

Their business processes include scheduling of storage tank allocations for bulk product storage tank farms, intermediate blend tanks and devices, input and output pipelines as well as interior pipelines and other devices under consideration of limited tank capacities and feasibility of a blend process.

ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench supports these business processes with the combination of standard APS and MES functions and specific functions that take the oil industries’ special requirements into account.

Blending Process and Technology

Blending plants may combine a variety of blending technologies and pre-mixes. In the first stage, all base components are pumped into an intermediate tank that works like a batch blender and quality inspection is done on the resulting “base blend”. Once the base blend has been approved, additives can be added. Liquid or low-viscosity additives or additive pre-mixes provided in storage tanks can be injected in a simultaneous metered blend system where they are combined with the base blend and either transferred to the final bulk storage tank or to a mixer tank. Solid or high-viscosity additives in containers need to be pre-heated, transferred from their containers (e.g. by a drum decanting unit) and pumped into a mixer tank using a fraction of the base blend. The mixer tank acts as the final batch blender. Once the blend is completed, it can be pumped into the final bulk storage tank where the finished product is again subject to quality inspection. The storage tank is the source for subsequent container filling or bulk loading processes.

In certain stages, the blending process may be interrupted prior to the next operation, thus allowing the consideration of non-working times and operation of the blending plant under various work schedules as well as giving a flexible time buffer for scheduling of the operations. For example, base blends can remain in an intermediate tank or final blends can remain in a mixer tank.

Any transport of input components or intermediate materials within the blending plant is done by use of piggable pipes, which may become bottlenecks and thus need detailed scheduling. Certain pipes may only be used with certain product groups, and there may be limited connectivity at a given time due to e.g. groups of tanks using the same input or output pipe. Intermediate tanks may have ranges of different sizes and different characteristics that make them suitable only for certain product groups (or even for certain input component characteristics).

Thus, a modern blending plant can be characterized as a true “multi-purpose batch plant” – a category known to require one of the most challenging scheduling models in scientific research for chemical systems engineering and that does not allow for efficient automated solutions in most cases.

Blend Order Creation and Scheduling

Blend orders are created and maintained in an ERP system with a target product, quantity and requirement date.

The challenge for the planner is to manually allocate a blend order to a free – and suitable – storage tank while the previous blend process operations should be scheduled in a technologically feasible way without needing manual interaction.

In the scheduling process it may be necessary to consider all detailed equipment of the blending plant, such as pipelines, drum decanting units, simultaneous metered blenders, intermediate tanks and mixers.

Maintaining all these details in an ERP system is often not desirable or even impossible as it would significantly complicate the ERP system in terms of master data management as well as potentially in terms of production execution (the latter is usually already handled in a process control system in full detail).

The hallenges of Flexible Sourcing and Sizing

Due to the volatile sourcing situation, there may be frequent changes in the source storage location for the input materials of the blend orders. Even for the exact same target product in another week, the final decision on which exact base component input sources to use is quite often dependent on quality inspection results and made by the lab even after the blend order has been scheduled. Reflecting these frequent changes in the master bills of material is highly undesirable – it would be necessary to modify the bills of material for all target products if the sourcing situation for one of their components changed.

The specific sourcing situation of a blend order, even if the bill of material remains unchanged in terms of material numbers and input quantities, influences the possible allocation path the blend order may take through the plant; for example, using pig pipelines from the base component tank farm, drum decanting units, simultaneous metered blenders and mixers. This flexibility is difficult to model in a typical ERP master routing or master recipe. It would be necessary to do it for each target product and modify it for all target products if the sourcing situation for one of their components changes.

Order Rooting

Order Rooting

Furthermore, blend orders for the same target product can have different batch sizes, which results in different durations of the individual order steps. Durations for some steps may depend on throughputs or pump speed relative to the quantity that is transferred through the device, and the quantity may be only a fraction of the total batch quantity. It may be difficult to model these durations and their quantity-dependent calculation in a typical ERP master routing or master recipe.

All of these challenges are best to be resolved by the introduction of an APS system with a highly detailed yet material-neutral blend recipe model in combination with rules-based scheduling.

Blend Recipe Model and Blend Order Model

ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench introduces blend master recipes and blend orders which allow a very detailed modeling of the blend process. Unlike how it is typically done in classic ERP systems, master recipes do not contain any reference to materials, neither as input components nor as target products.

In addition, the material master is extended by some fields to maintain certain characteristics for the target products and sourcing information for the input materials.

This way, even for a blend plant with 500 different target products and 1500 different input components, a few dozen highly complex blend master recipes may be sufficient. While it may take some time to create these recipes and model all technological restriction and flexibility into them – especially for a new plant – their structure will hardly ever need to be adapted later. Only the duration timing of steps may need adjustment with production reality from time to time in order to improve accuracy of the schedule.

The names of existing blend recipes in ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench must correspond to the names of master routings in the ERP. Furthermore, the ERP master routings must use control keys that correspond to some control keys within the blend recipes.

If a blend order is created in the ERP, it gets its own ERP order bill of material and ERP order routing- based on ERP master data.

This complete ERP order is loaded by ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench and a blend process order is created. In this process, the ERP data is matched with the detailed blend recipe and the blend process order is “enriched” with the detail operations and steps of the blend recipe. Only then is the information on target product and input components, which are taken from the ERP order, injected into the detailed order steps.

Rules-based Preparation of the Blend Order Prior to Scheduling

ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench can be customized with a pre-scheduling rules evaluator that analyzes the blend process order and executes various rules-based decision-making processes and calculations on it the moment a user selects a blend process order and drops it at a target tank at a desired time within a Gantt chart. The rules-based evaluator prepares the blend process order so that it is suitable for the standard scheduling algorithms provided by ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench.

Dynamic Selection for Intermediate Tanks and Blend Plant Devices

In addition to the pre-scheduling rules evaluator, it is also possible to define expressions for the dynamic selection of candidates for the resources of blend order steps with dependency of target material properties, input component properties and decisions made during scheduling other steps of the same order. These expressions are evaluated by the standard scheduling algorithm during each trial.

Detailed Scheduling of Blend Orders

A blending scheduling workframe within the ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench – using Gantt charts for devices and pipes, combined histograms and Gantt charts for storage tanks and detailed schedule editors – supports the planner in maintaining blending schedules and monitoring resulting allocations and stock levels at the finished bulk products tank farm.

The blending scheduling workframe helps to optimize mix allocation plans, maximize the use of resources in terms of capacity, and at the same time observe any restrictions (e.g. tank space limitations). A Gantt chart shows the occupancy of pipelines, intermediate tanks and mixing equipment for a mixing job in blending mode in the context of other jobs on the same and similar equipment.

There is a chart of similar bulk storage tanks, suitable for a specific range of target products and batch sizes, with a combined plot of occupancy and inventory levels. This chart shows not only how the occupancy of a blending order will increase inventory, but also how the occupancy of filling or loading orders will decrease inventory. A list of scheduled blend orders can be displayed and a detailed editor for an individual mixed order can be shown.

Schmierstoffe - Abfüllung

Container Filling and Bulk Load Scheduling

The result of the blending production is a finished product that can be sold either as a bulk product – transported to customers by ships, tank trains or tank trucks – or as a filled and packaged product.

Transports by ship or train often have a fixed schedule – based on due dates of bulk sales orders – that has to be met by the blending department by provision of the required bulk products at defined times, usually in large quantities in assigned storage tanks. As these schedules cannot usually be flexibly changed and are often repetitive, there is little benefit to gain from a close coordination with the blend production schedule.

Transports by tank trucks as well as production of filled containers, however, need a higher flexibility; establishment of truck loading and filling schedules is an important challenge for the production planning department, where significant benefits can be gained from a close coordination with the blend production schedule.

Similar business processes are used by other companies producing liquid products that can be sold as bulk or packaged products, as well as, for example, by companies who produce blended wax-related products. These may have a forming operation as part of their filling process (e.g. creation of powders, pastilles or blocks), but that rarely needs extra consideration from the scheduling point of view.

“Blending and filling planning” departments are responsible to schedule the blending, filling and tank truck loading over a short-term planning horizon – based on sales orders and strategic monthly planning figures – with a high rate of flexibility due to volatile sales requirements.

Their business processes include scheduling of filling lines and tank truck load points and monitoring of tank allocation for bulk product storage tank farms under consideration of limited tank capacities.

ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench supports these business processes with the combination of standard APS and MES functions and specific functions that take the oil industries’ special requirements into account.

Quite often, the supply chain of blending and filling / loading is handled by the same planner for a certain range of products. First, the blend order schedule is established. This gives the time range for the filling / loading order, which is determined by the time the bulk product is available in the storage tank (and approved by quality inspection). It also gives the time when the next blend order will start filling the storage tank again, perhaps with a different product. Based on this time range, the filling / loading order is scheduled.

The Manufacturing Execution (MES) module of the ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench is used for short term scheduling and rescheduling and to monitor the production execution progress of the blending and filling. For filling, it includes optimization of sequences with fewer changeovers, selection of appropriate filling unit with regard to container size and filling capacity, availability of empty containers and packaging materials, and availability of storage capacity for container products (cans, barrels etc.) or ‘just in time’ loading of trailer tanks or tank wagons.

The ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench supports the planning process to find the best schedule within constraints such as due dates of sales orders or tank capacity, with options for pull production (starting from the demands) and push production (starting from bulk blends that need to be processed and filled soon). The software checks the availability of bulk components on tank level and in total stock as well as the availability of blending equipment and filling lines. It visualizes the production progress status.

Detailed Scheduling of Container Filling Lines

Blended products are often sold to end customers in small quantities, packaged in containers of various forms and sizes.

Container filling is often planned as a mixture of make-to-order production based on sales orders and make-to-stock production based on sales forecasts.

Filling process orders are used to handle the production planning and execution for both production scenarios. They need to be scheduled in close coordination with respective blend process orders in terms of time and storage tank used.

A filling order is scheduled on a container filling line. It considers not only the capacity of the filling line, but also tries to achieve a good sequence on the filling line with fewer changeovers (similar product group, same container form factor etc.).

A container filling line scheduling workframe within the ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench Gantt charts for filling lines, combined with Gantt charts and histograms for source storage tank allocation and filling order lists, supports the planner in maintaining filling schedules and monitoring resulting allocations and stock levels at the finished bulk products tank farm.

The concept of checkmark indicators makes the software convenient to use. All filling orders containing a checkmark for ‘in time delivery’, ‘available to promise’ and ‘capable to promise’ are scheduled correctly and do not require any additional planning treatment. The planner can concentrate on only the remaining few scheduled filling orders with missing checkmarks. These orders can be selected by a single mouse click.

In a special visualization, for a single filling order, the filling line and its input tank can be displayed in a higher zoom level to show the whole day. This can be used to reschedule the filling order and synchronize it exactly with blending orders and loadings on the same input tank.

Time Slot Scheduling of Bulk Loading Points

A large part of the delivery of bulk blended products to customers is done with tank trucks. These are often operated by many different forwarding companies – either on behalf of the customer or as independent companies serving specific regions.

Tank Trucks are loaded at specific load points from a specific storage tank containing the desired product, often in a single batch that has been produced by the blend department for a specific sales order.

Unlike make-to-order container filling, where it is quite normal to use filling process orders in an ERP system to handle the production planning and execution in addition to sales orders for the filled product (because it is often combined with make-to-stock container filling), many companies do not want to use extra process orders in an ERP system to handle the planning and execution for make-to-order bulk loading. This is because of the resulting “overhead” of synchronizing changes of the sales order with the load process order, which often leads to a “model gap” in the supply chain. By extending the model of a sales order with a subordinate object “load allocation” – with references to load point, source storage tank and load time (slot) – this “model gap” can be closed and the “overhead” can be avoided.

On the one hand, the load points can be a bottleneck if many trucks – possibly from different forwarding companies – arrive at the same time and must queue at the load point for loading. On the other hand, the storage tanks can be a bottleneck if the truck cannot be loaded – either because it arrives late or because it has to queue – and thus the storage tank cannot be depleted fast enough to reuse it for the next blend order.

To de-bottleneck the bulk loading while considering the uncertainties of road-based traffic, companies have started to introduce “time slots” for the forwarding companies, similar to those used in airspace traffic, which are more precise than merely the material availability date from the sales order.

The quantity of an individual tank truck load allocation determines the duration of the loading and thus the capacity requirement for the load point as well as the duration of the discharge of the storage tank.

Load point scheduling may use these “time slots” in order to establish a load schedule under consideration of total load point capacity in the time slot and of planned availability and allocation of storage tanks.

Each tank truck load allocation – which already has a material availability date, a source storage tank and a load point – can be interactively assigned to a time slot of the load point on the material availability date. By summing the duration of all assigned tank truck load allocations in a time slot, a capacity check can easily prevent “overbooking” of a slot.

Once the load schedule has been established, the blending department will also automatically receive a schedule for depletion of their storage tanks – with the accurate time slot – and can schedule the next blend orders that will use these storage tanks.

A load point scheduling workframe within the ORSOFT Manufacturing Workbench – which uses Gantt charts for load points to visualize time slots, combines Gantt charts and histograms for source storage tank allocation and tank truck load allocation lists – supports the planner in maintaining load point schedules and monitoring resulting allocations and stock levels at the finished bulk products tank farm.

In addition to standard functions for scheduling a tank truck load allocation at a given time (similar to scheduling of a process order on a device), the software provides functions to schedule a tank truck load allocation in a given time slot and “shuffle” already existing tank truck load allocations within that slot in order to have an uninterrupted sequence and thus a visual indication of the capacity load of the slot in a Gantt chart.

The loading workframe helps to optimize loading point occupancy plans, to maximize the use of resources in terms of capacity, and at the same time to observe all restrictions (e.g. tank space limitations). A Gantt Chart shows the occupancy of the loading points. Moving the mouse pointer to a bar representing one load allocation will cause a window with all detailed information about this allocation to appear.

Truck loading assignments with order number (from the leading ERP system), product name, batch size, loading point, input tank and indicators for ‘available to promise’ and ‘capable to promise’ checks as well as information about the linked blending order that produces the input material for the truck loading assignment are available.

A special visualization is possible for a single tank truck load allocation, displaying its load point and its sourcing tank in a higher zoom level to show the whole day. This can be used to reschedule the tank truck load allocation exactly to synchronize with blend orders and filling orders on the same source tank.

Annemarie Kersten
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