United Solar Ovonic Standardizes on Proficy Software

Solution expected to provide significant quality improvements, and scrap and waste reduction

GE Intelligent Platforms, a unit of GE Enterprise
Solutions, announced that United Solar Ovonic (United Solar), a
world leader in the manufacturing of flexible solar modules located in
Rochester Hills, Michigan, has standardized on GE’s Proficy® software
platform to reduce scrap, increase throughput and lower the cost of
manufacturing thin-film photovoltaic laminates. The Proficy software,
which includes Operations Management, HMI/SCADA and Reporting modules,
will allow the company to improve the quality of its product while
taking cost out of its operations.

The project is expected to
cover operational manufacturing sites in Michigan, and the company’s
Mexico assembly plant. United Solar expects the project to produce
significant benefits over three years time with more than 80% of the
benefit associated with quality improvements and scrap and waste

“The constraints posed by the worldwide dependence on
oil has led the charge toward more renewable energy solutions and
thin-film photovoltaic solar modules are state-of-the art in this
industry,” said Erik Udstuen, Vice President of Software and Services
for GE Intelligent Platforms. “Investing in manufacturing processes to
increase their ability to meet those needs and taking costs out of
operations, will propel United Solar in renewable energy, and help them
to produce more sustainable products for the global marketplace. ”

Solar, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices, Inc.
(ECD) (NASDAQ: ENER), builds integrated rooftop photovoltaics that are
flexible, light weight, easy to install, durable, and provide excellent
real-world energy production.  Keeping up with one of the fastest
growing segments of the solar power industry led the company to realize
the need to implement a system that could address quality, throughput
and sustainability issues in their manufacturing process.

Solar began a very competitive evaluation process including multiple
vendors, more than a year ago. Important to the company’s
decision-making process was GE Intelligent Platforms’ expertise in
solar photovoltaic manufacturing and the company’s adherence to the
Microsoft technology stack of which United Solar is a big supporter, as
well as GE Intelligent Platforms’ proven track record in both the
Continuous and Discrete industries.

“Companies that participate
in this fast growing solar industry, will differentiate themselves with
high quality products at competitive pricing levels,” said Joe Conroy,
Senior Vice President of Operations at United Solar. “Our goal in
implementing this solution is to reduce scrap, increase throughput,
gain greater visibility into material consumptions, reduce
work-in-process and, ultimately, lower costs.“

“By better
monitoring and controlling the production process,” Conroy continued,
“we are improving quality and yield and therefore reducing the cost of
modules produced.”

United Solar uses Proficy iFIX and Proficy
Historian in all of the five current manufacturing sites today, and
will be implementing the Proficy Operations Management suite including
Proficy Plant Applications, Proficy DataMart, Proficy Workflow, and
Proficy Scheduler. Proficy iFIX is used for process visualization and
process alarm management providing the company a window into their
process by displaying key process indicators along side animated
process graphics. Proficy Historian records key process indicators for
process optimization activities today.  With the expansion of their use
of additional software, Historian will be used to correlate
relationships between KPIs and downtime events, OEE performance across
manufacturing assets, waste /scrap and other process variables.

addition, the Proficy Quality module will be used to insure all quality
characteristics are checked during manufacturing as defined by product
specifications, monitor how the plant floor processes are performing
from a quality perspective and manage all quality data in a centralized
manner. The Proficy Efficiency module will be used to monitor asset
performance in relationship to availability, rate, alarms and waste. 
Accurate real-time and historical information will allow United Solar
personnel to quickly pinpoint problem areas, report asset
efficiencies, and automate analysis of root causes for production
problems. The Proficy Production module will be used to automatically
dispatch Production Orders to the plant floor providing real-time
visibility of schedule attainment while also tracking the complete
genealogy of each solar panel.

GE Intelligent Platforms’ new
Proficy Scheduler will be used to optimize production schedules based
on real-time feedback from the plant floor regarding asset and material
availability and other key performance indicators.  Business rules can
be used to model the effect of plant performance on schedule attainment
and forecast production and material usage.   The entire system will be
tightly integrated with United Solar’s ERP system to truly close the
loop between plant performance and the demands of the business.

on manufacturing costs leads to profitability of the company overall,”
said Udstuen. “With the Proficy software platform – work process
management, MES, SCADA – United Solar has chosen an operational
excellence platform that drives success now and into the future.”


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