Engineering revisited

Not long after I came onboard as editorial director of Control Engineering, I wrote a column titled "Change engineers," which dealt with the increasing influence of corporate directives and information technologies on the engineering profession in the manufacturing industries. This has been a theme I've revisited several times since as more evidence to support the shift taking place in enginee...

02/01/2006


Not long after I came onboard as editorial director of Control Engineering , I wrote a column titled "Change engineers," which dealt with the increasing influence of corporate directives and information technologies on the engineering profession in the manufacturing industries. This has been a theme I've revisited several times since as more evidence to support the shift taking place in engineering came to my attention through third party research and interviews I've conducted with engineers, analysts, and industry thought leaders.

The resurgence of the manufacturing execution system (MES) sector in the past year, along with the high profile market positioning by automation vendors to demonstrate their ability to link their automation products with enterprise business systems, all served to support my belief that a dramatic change in engineering is taking place. Some higher profile positioning that took place in the past year includes: ABB's continued development of its IndustrialITautomation and control system that provides MES capabilities and enterprise system linkage; Honeywell's expansion of its Experion offering, which coordinates automation and engineering knowledge management with MES capabilities and linkage to the enterprise; Rockwell's renewed emphasis around its FactoryTalk MES offering and its purchase of Camstar for additional MES capabilities; Schneider's purchase of Citect to bring MES functionality to its product line-up; and Siemens joining its process automation and MES businesses, not to mention its partnership with SAP. Even the mid-size and smaller component-level vendors, such as Acromag, Wago, and Opto22, are positioning for enterprise connectivity through widespread incorporation of Ethernet into their product lines.

All of this activity led to the launch of a series of articles in 2006—Enterprise Integration and the Engineer—that begin with this month's cover story. The launching pad for this series was a significant Control Engineering subscriber survey conducted in the fall. Through this survey we wanted to find out about: integration of automation and enterprise systems in manufacturing, what factors are driving this integration, and how subscribers feel this activity is altering their jobs.

The next three articles in the series will cover: plant floor devices and applications most used in enterprise integrations; how decisions are made about automation-to-enterprise integration and who is making those decisions; and career advice from engineers who have been involved in these high-level integration projects.

We hope these articles will help you better understand how the future of engineering is being affected by technology deployments today.





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