Business process management (BPM) is often employed as a driver of integration, by articulating business processes that cross the boundaries of individual business functions. Business process modelling as part of BPM has shown its potential in administrative environments, such as banking and insurance organizations. However, business process modelling remains unproven for all the processes encountered in manufacturing enterprises, including the physical operations processes that transform input materials into the required product. These processes have physical characteristics that make them essentially different from administrative processes with a highly digital nature, like limited physical buffers for intermediate products and transportation times between activities. In this paper, we present an approach to use business process models for the specification of these physical operations processes. Our approach is based on a catalogue of common process fragments that are adapted to the physical nature of manufacturing. These process fragments serve as reusable building blocks for the specification of manufacturing processes. We use the industry standard Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) to represent both fragments and processes. We demonstrate the use of our catalogue of fragments by modelling and enacting the real-world processes of ten manufacturing organizations. The results show strong support for the use of business process models for both representation and enactment of manufacturing processes. This work closes part of the gap between the support for administrative processes and physical industrial processes, thus contributing to the advent of the smart manufacturing concept in the context of Industry 4.0.
- Business process modelling
- Cross-functional process management
- Manufacturing operations