Collaborative production systems

Despite the drive for integration between automation systems and operations management/enterprise systems, barriers still exist. Manufacturing engineers are beginning to understand the benefits of integration—increased asset utilization, maximum operational effectiveness, reduced fixed costs, etc.


Despite the drive for integration between automation systems and operations management/enterprise systems, barriers still exist. Manufacturing engineers are beginning to understand the benefits of integration—increased asset utilization, maximum operational effectiveness, reduced fixed costs, etc.—but not necessarily the path to achieving it. The ARC Advisory Group has proposed a new roadmap that can help.

Unveiled at GE Fanuc’s Discover 2007 user group event in St. Louis, ARC’s Collaborative Production System model takes past ARC strategies and synthesizes them into a more unified process, creating a tighter model for enabling disparate systems to talk to each other.

“This next generation model helps combine ARC’s popular Collaborative Process Automation Systems (CPAS) and Operations Management models,” said Craig Resnick, research director for ARC Advisory Group.

The Collaborative Production System model outlines not only systems infrastructure, but also the requirements, functions, people, and processes needed for manufacturers to achieve operational excellence.

“Collaborative production systems prevent assets from being niche islands of information, and ensure that all assets are delivering their maximum return on investment to the manufacturers and their shareholders,” said Resnick. He noted the benefits extend beyond machines talking to each other. “Collaborative production systems also eliminate internal barriers that may exist between, for example, plant floor and IT personnel,” he said.

The model represents the increasingly distributed nature of applications and is designed to help improve asset and equipment reliability, as well as delivery of accurate information. In turn, that should help workers focus on assets that need attention, and ensure better performance. The goal is an enterprise-wide system of key performance indicators (KPIs) that link overall productivity across all aspects of the organization.

Resnick noted that GE Fanuc has embraced the Collaborative Production System model and has been working on products to address the kinds of barriers to integration cited in a recent ARC report. One such product announced by GE Fanuc is VisiconX for Proficy HMI/SCADA Cimplicity. This enterprise-wide analytical tool uses ActiveX controls to let users easily obtain and group data from any relational database and turn it into information. (Designed originally for GE Fanuc’s iFIX product, it was made possible by the open and layered architecture of both products, according to GE Fanuc.)

Steve Ryan, director of GE Fanuc’s Proficy Process Systems business, said, “There are aging systems that are nearing their end of life and the people who knew how to run and operate those systems are retiring. There is a need to update systems [to ones] that can be managed and maintained by the new workforce to take businesses successfully forward for the next 10 to 15 years.

“It’s no longer effective to update or maintain a single controller at a time,” he continued. “By and large, businesses are looking to tie their control systems into their business information systems, but to do so intelligently. The CPS model can help them define their path to success.”

Sheila Kester, GE Fanuc director of production management solutions, said, “CPS recognizes that a comprehensive [technology] portfolio is not enough. It recognizes that focusing on business problems is not enough. It is about delivering results and recognizing that it is a collaborative world with many facets and functions. The traditional boundaries that have existed between systems and between functions are coming down or blurring. The result is all about improving our customers’ operational excellence.”

CPS also acknowledges that manufacturers face multiple challenges from the “flattening” of the world, according to ARC. Companies are shifting their focus to flexible customer-centric manufacturing that can deal with demand fluctuations. Flat world drivers demand manufacturing excellence, which places greater pressure on companies to achieve operational excellence.

Author Information

Renee Robbins is senior editor of Control Engineering. She can be reached at .

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