Advancing OPC: Standard moves into CNC-ERP integration


Research Triangle Park, NC —A test project has succeeded in using OPC architecture to achieve CNC and ERP connectivity, the Open Modular Architecture Controls Users' Group (OMAC) reports. The joint Boeing / Okuma / NIST project demonstrated the ease with which a machine tool end user—Boeing, in this case—can use a truly open control platform, said OMAC.

OMAC's human machine interface (HMI) working group—which promotes best practices and technology applications that provide connectivity to the enterprise through open architecture—has been working to advance OPC as a CNC integration technology best practice. OPC is an industry standard for open connectivity in industrial automation and is supported by most major industrial automation providers.

To achieve this goal, the OMAC HMI working group organized a joint project between OMAC HMI members Boeing, Okuma, and NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) to evaluate the integration of computer numerical control (CNC) with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and determine if OPC/OMAC technologies could achieve parts accountability with minimal integration efforts. The traditional factory floor set-up model makes integrating factory floor information into ERP subsystems a challenge. The group decided it would examine the effectiveness of an Okuma PC-based controller, called THINC, in collecting cycle times, part quantities, setup and job times, and other vital information on machine and job performance. The benefits of such automated data entry are to minimize machine operator data entry and to provide real-time parts cost accounting to an ERP accounting subsystem.

The joint Boeing/Okuma/NIST work integrated the production of Boeing 737 Leading Edge (LE) panels on an Okuma open-architecture CNC with the enterprise to provide real-time cost data. "Overall, we successfully achieved most of our goal of a 'touch' to 'non-touch' operation," said OMAC Chairman Sid Venkatesh of Boeing. "We were able to replace the tedious data entry process required of the machine operators with a more automated approach. As far as realizing an efficiency-ROI for CNC-ERP is concerned, we were able to validate that CNC-ERP connectivity was possible, simple, and cost-effective once the details of interaction between the shop floor and the scrap reorder SCM system were established."

The project demonstrated the ease with which Boeing could use a truly open control platform to realize ideas and visions, said OMAC. Okuma exposed the necessary data from the Okuma THINC control standard application programming interface (API) in an OPC wrapper. Boeing and NIST were able to complete the project with no additional assistance from Okuma. This autonomy in implementing creative applications, said OMAC, is one advantage of an open control platform: controls adapting to the requirements of the end user. The project team is planning to continue refining the application to demonstrate the efficiencies associated with lean manufacturing, targeting improvements in inventory control that would equate to cost savings.

OMAC is an affiliate organization of ISA, the Instrumentation, Systems, and Automation Society. It seeks to derive common solutions for technical and non-technical issues in the development, implementation, and commercialization of open, modular architecture control (OMAC) technologies, and facilitate the development and convergence of industry- and government-developed OMAC technology guidelines to one set that satisfies common use requirements.

—Edited by Jeanine Katzel , senior editor,
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