Closer to the core: Accenture’s presence at ARC forum signals importance of plant-to-enterprise integration

The growing emphasis on linking plant-floor systems with enterprise applications became evident this week as global consulting giant Accenture made its first appearance at the annual ARC Strategy Forum, an event that focuses squarely on strategies for managing and improving production operations.<br/>


The growing emphasis on linking plant-floor systems with enterprise applications became evident this week as global consulting giant Accenture made its first appearance at the annual ARC Strategy Forum, an event that focuses squarely on strategies for managing and improving production operations.
The forum, sponsored for the 13th consecutive year by Dedham, Mass.-based industry analyst firm ARC Advisory Group , took place February 2-5 in Orlando. On the first day, Accenture held a joint press conference with CSense Systems , a supplier of software for optimizing production processes. The companies announced an alliance that calls for Accenture to use CSense’s software platform in certain customer engagements.
But Ronald Munk, president and CEO of the newly formed Accenture Automation and Industrial Solutions unit, said the consulting firm’s presence at forum had broader significance. “We are here for the first time because we have made a global strategic decision to be closer to the core of our clients businesses,” Munk said.
Accenture—long known as a leader in helping companies integrate enterprise and supply chain systems—formed its Automation and Industrial Solutions unit shortly after its July 2008 acquisition of ATAN , a privately held Brazilian company with a portfolio of industrial IT and automation solutions.
Noting Accenture’s history of helping companies reengineer business processes that are supported by ERP, supply chain management, and logistics systems, Munk said the Automation and Industrial Solutions unit wants to enter the area where HMI, SCADA, MES, and batch systems are the predominant process-management technologies.
Companies that need help integrating plant-floor systems often turn to the major industrial automation hardware and software suppliers such as Siemens or ABB . Munk said Accenture can differentiate itself in this space by not aligning itself exclusively with any technology solutions, including its own.

Getting to the core: Global consulting giant Accenture has a long history of integrating solutions that form business process information networks. Now it wants to connect operations information systems.

The ATAN acquisition netted Accenture a set of solutions for managing plant-level processes, and the CSense alliance will provide a platform for constant process improvement.
CSense calls its solution a Process Performance Enhancement platform. Tjaart van der Walt, CFO of CSense, said the platform contains capabilities for advanced process control, and smart processing monitoring, and “rapid process troubleshooting.”
Munk said Accenture selected the CSense platform over other solutions for this alliance because it’s user-friendly. “We have an integrated set of user-friendly [process management] tools,” Munk said, “but when you get to process optimization tools, they typically are not very user-friendly. The CSense platform makes it easier to collect, manipulate, and massage data. “
Despite its feelings about this set of solutions, Munk said Accenture will be able to remain objective about technology platforms when working with customers.
“The other players usually come in with their own complete solution,” he said. “We want to position ourselves as a systems integrator. We will be hardware- and software-independent with a few strategic alliances—like the one with CSense. We see this like the ERP wave of 15 years ago.”

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