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Applying the Principles

of GRAFCET to Business
Operationsand Management
Affiliate of the City and Guilds of London Institute,
UK and Certified KNX Partner, Nigeria

Kelvin Enumah

Abstract: Operations is a very unique part of every com-

ponent. When applied to business, strategy and tactics
become beautiful. But when applying these spectacular
strategy and tactics, it is very important to understand
how and what is to be achieved at every point in time.
Business analysts spend time in finding the best way to
understand and interpret businesses, while operations
directors struggle to ensure that every step of the business
is gotten correctly and startups find it hard to get their
Kelvin Enumah is currently assistant operations go smoothly. The GRAFCET tool that would
building/industrial automation be exemplified here would be of great guide for everyone,
instructor and the student
development officer at the Institute for
who has something to do with operations.
Industrial Technology, Lagos, Nigeria.
He attended the Center for Corporate Keywords: business, GRAFCET, management, Operations,
Learning, Leeds, the United Kingdom, sequence, steps, transitions
where he received an affiliateship in
engineering from the City and Guilds
of London Institute. After 3 years Introduction
of intense industrial engineering Automation engineering has some peculiar relation-
training which included experiences in ships with business and humanity. This can be seen
Guinness Nig. Plc. and Leoplast Ltd, he through the operations and sequences of tasks, de-
ventured into teaching in a technical
institute. His flare for operations
picted in forms of inputs (requirements) and outputs
and management resulted from his (goals). The GRAFCET is a tool used in analyzing ma-
automation trainings/practices, and chine programing operations. First, this tool is graphi-
he has developed several teaching cal, showing the current stage of the set operation, the
methodologies to put into practice
requirements for the next, and this continues depend-
the effects of proper operations in
learning and human development. ing on the number of outputs or set goals in this case.
Applying several automation principles Business operations is not far from this because, to
to human activities like learning and achieve a goal you need certain requirements. This tool
business management has been his helps in managing these operations, and is a practical
recent endeavor.
approach towards helping business/management stu-
dents in applying engineering perfections to business
through the use of GRAFCET.

Expert Insights 1
Applying the Principles of GRAFCET to Business Operationsand Management

I would like to assume that only au- off, the door to his parents room was
tomation engineers know and use the closed, and the remote to the TV was left
GRAFCET tool. Although, my assumption in its usual place; he smiled. Just when
would certainly be wrong if I were to apply he turned on the TV, he looked at the wall
it to the flowchart tool. The flowchart tool clock and saw that it was 10 pm. Immedi-
is one that is familiar to a lot of discipline ately, he remembered that it was time for
and work levels. It is used by analysts, his dads usual night water drinking, he re-
managers, programers, business adminis- alized that he was about to enter a big pot
trators, firms, engineers, and many more. of trouble. He was at the verge of aborting
It is certain that flowcharts have existed his mission, when his dad swung the door
since the early twentieth century, though open, and behold it was dooms day for him.
not surprising that it is still being defined Of course you know the end of this particu-
till date, and its functionalities are still be- lar story...
ing explored. But why did certain aspects Operations in its simplest terms can be
of the automation trade and programmers associated with procedures, process, func-
break out from this wonderful flowchart tioning, and plan. Can we simply put, an
chain, why did they choose to create the operation is the vessel, which houses the
GRAFCET in order to apply it specially, strategy and tactics for achieving a goal?
what did Siemens, Festo and other OEMs
(original equipment manufacturer) see? Why Should We Talk About Machine
This question precisely is what is to be Operations?
answered by showing how GRAFCET is We are talking about machine operations,
applied to business operations and man- because we eventually would end up ap-
agement as used successfully in the field plying one of its very useful tools in busi-
of automation. ness operations.
A machine operation is the elementary
How Would You Describe An function, which a machine has been de-
Operation? signed to perform based on defined steps
Somewhere in Nigeria, a 10-year-old boy and inserted instructions. It could also be
was sent to bed at 9 pm by his parents be- a series of tasks, which a machine has been
cause of he had to attend school the next designed to perform. Basically, it is the ac-
day. He was actually seeing a cartoon on tivities to be carried out by a machine. There
how the police carried out their activities could be a possibility that a machine has the
during a distress call. The boy didnt want capability to carry out several operations,
to go to bed because he wanted to watch but what is most important is that all the ac-
the cartoon. He could do nothing, but obey. tivities to be carried out by the machine can
After a while, when in his room, he re- be broken down into steps. If you are famil-
membered some tactics from the cartoon iar with machining, you hear questions like
he was seeing and immediately got to what are the steps to be taken for the lathe
work in planning how he would get back machine to carry out a turning operation.
to the sitting room to finish watching the This already starts leaving in your mind
cartoon. He conceived the idea, he visu- an image mapping series of sequences and
alized it, and he planned and planned. repetition. This is very correct because an
Finally, he confirmed that his parents
operation can be broken down into steps,
had left the sitting room; it was time for and if the steps are arranged properly you
executing his plans. should get the desired operation. Misplac-
The boy jumped out of the room, every- ing or misinterpreting the steps would lead
thing was going as planned, lights were to an operation failure at the end.

2 Expert Insights
Applying the Principles of GRAFCET to Business Operationsand Management

Machine Operations Versus Business GRAFCET is a standard valid in Europe

Operations (DIN EN 60848), which may be used to de-
Business operations are those ongoing re- scribe a control function or a machine.
curring activities involved in the running GRAFCET is the abbreviation for
of a business for the purpose of producing GRAphe Fonctionnel de Commande
value for the stakeholders. Etapes/Transitions.
One of the obvious reasons why man- It means Step Transition function chart.
agement exists is because there is an op- GRAFCET helps to guarantee the best
eration. If there were no operations, no possible, highly efficient working relation-
occurrences, no steps, no actions, and no ships between different professional groups
processes; then in business, there would be (or disciplines).
no management. The designer creates the GRAFCET,
In a machine, there is an unavoidable and the mechanical engineer can use it to
part that manages all the operations of the construct the requested machine. Then,
machine: the control system. Just like in a the PLC expert writes a program that cor-
computer, the CPU. Just like in any other responds to this, and the commissioning
machine, the controller (programmable logic engineer can prepare the machine for
controller [PLC] maybe) just like in a business, operation. The system operator is better
the management. As would be seen below, able to understand the machines pro-
there are necessary items of every operation: cesses using the GRAFCET, and mainte-
the steps, the action that takes place in that nance staff can remedy disruptions faster
step, how each step is gotten to, and lastly, because the systems functions can gauge
what happens at the end of the last step (does faster.
the operation end or does it continue from a GRAFCET is aimed at simplifying the se-
certain point or from the beginning). quence of an operation. Many times, when
In listing a number of familiar terms, an automated operation is to be designed,
objectives, outcome, and outline, it is clear you tend to assume that the process of
that a change in vocabulary is what can be achieving it is cumbersome. But with the
said to be particular about the two parties GRAFCET, you can immediately break
in contest here. down the whole operation into steps that
are to give an expected action. These ac-
What Is a GRAFCET? tions dont just happen, so transitions are
GRAFCET is a graphical programing lan- listed for every step. These transitions are
guage used for PLC. It is one of the languages what would lead to each step.
defined by IEC 61131-3 standard. It can be The steps are represented with boxes;
used to program processes that can be split there is a line linking each box, and just
into steps. between each box, there is a horizontal line
The GRAFCET is a tool for describing running through the vertical link connect-
the specifications of the control unit of an ing the boxes, and this represents the list of
automated system. The working of an auto- necessary transitions, in order to move to
matic equipment may be described graphi- each next step.
cally by a group of: There are many other tools used to plan
STEPS to which are associated certain and sequence operations, but using the
ACTIONS GRAFCET is firstly an intellectual work,
TRANSITIONS which are conditions to which would help its user have a holistic
be fulfilled view of what is expected. Find below what
DIRECTED LINKS linking steps and a GRAFCET looks like, displaying the steps,
transitions actions, and transitions.

Expert Insights 3