What is a Production Facility Architecture ?

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The Production Facility Architecture is one of three basic components of any enterprise (the other two are the People/Organizational, and the Control and Information Systems Architectures.)

The term "architecture", as used in this website, refers not only to bricks and mortar structures, but the structure via which material and data move through maufacturing facililites and organizations.

The Production Facilities of an enterprise may be represented by a series of "Architecture" diagrams, beginning with the Process Flow Diagrams, Material Flow Diagrams, and Physical Architecture Drawings.

The Architecture of continuous processing facilities (like oil refineries) are described with "Process Flow Diagrams" (PFDs), while discrete manufacturing facilities (like parts assembly plants) are described wtih Material Flow Diagrams (MFDs). These tools enable engineers to visualize the "architecture" of automated facilities for the processing of fluids and discrete objects in much the same way that architectural drawings do for buildings and other "static" structures.

At the next level of detail below the PFD or MFD, the P&ID (Piping and Instrumentation Diagram) provides a schematic representation of the processing equipment, piping, instrumentation, and storage (e.g. tanks), and how these are connected. The P&ID also shows how instrumentation and control devices (like automated valves) are connected in "control loops" to effect regulatory contol of the process units. Thus, the P&ID provides a unique visualization tool, in that it represents both process equipment from the Production Facility Architecture, and the lower levels of the Control and Information Architecture.


The Architecture of a Production Facility may be represented in various forms, depending on the nature of the Physical Plant. The simplest example is an architectural drawing of a building where people may carry out some service function. More complex facilities such as a continuous Process Plant (like an Oil Refinery) are represented by Process Flow Diagrams (PFDs), while Discrete Manufacturing Plants (like an automotive assembly plant) may be represented by Material Flow Diagrams (MFDs). Variations on these and other formats have been developed to represent the physical production facilities for most other industry sectors.

A key development in the design of physical architectures and production facilities was the ability to do quantitative analysis. Initially this took the form of calculation of static loads in structures and equipment. This quantification allowed the evolution from load bearing walls designed by trial and error (whose pinnacle was the medieval cathedral) to modern structures of glass and steel. Quantitative modelling also made possible design of more complex and efficient machines.

Later, the ability to do quantitative modelling was extended to the flow of materials. Although some design of production facilities (like oil refineries or automotive manufacturing) was possible with manual calculations, it was the invention of the digital computer that really made it possible to optimize designs.

The increasing complexity if these facilities made graphical representation of the production facility essential. To this end, a number of graphical visualization tools were invented, including PFDs (Process Flow Diagrams) for continuous process industries, and MFDs (Material Flow Diagrams) for discrete manufacturing industries. Other industries required different formats to represent their production facilities such as "Sequence Diagrams" for batch-oriented production operations, or "Time and Motion Diagrams" for service industries, etc. Industry-specific facility architecture diagrams are discussed at more length in the "Physical Architectures" section of this web site.

Finally, with the advent of even better computers and software modelling techniques, it became possible to "dynamically" model the production facility. This made it possible to predict "feedback" effects such as instability due to recycle of material, cyclical bottlenecking, etc. A large number of software products are available to do "steady state" modelling, and a smaller number capable of "dynamic" modelling. However, these products tend to be industry-specific, and limited to only one or two phases of the enterprise life-cycle. These are therefore discussed at more length under the "Products" area of this website for each specific industry and enterprise phase.

As the enterprise evolves through each phase, the information in a facility architecture diagram is expanded to the next level of detail. Process Flow Diagrams are expanded to produce P&IDs (Piping and Instrumentation Diagrams), MFDs are expanded to produce M&IDs (Mechanical and Instrumentation Diagrams. and so on, until the actual facility is built from detail engineering documents such as 3D layouts, wiring diagrams, etc. This process of development is described in more detail in the Engineering Tools area of this website. After commissioning, these diagrams are maintained to document the "as built" status of the production facility.

by Gary Rathwell reserved
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