ISA Expo 2003: Microsoft, Invensys form alliance for solutions

Houston, TX—Microsoft Corp. and Invensys plc unveiled an alliance Oct. 21 at ISA Expo 2003 that combines Invensys’ strengths in process and manufacturing and its expertise in key industries with Microsoft’s platform, technology and enterprise products.


Houston, TX— Microsoft Corp. and Invensys plc unveiled an alliance Oct. 21 that combines Invensys’ strengths in process and manufacturing and its expertise in key industries with Microsoft’s platform, technology and enterprise products. Organizers told visitors on the show floor at ISA Expo 2003 that the partnership will accelerate product development using Invensys’ ArchestrA technology and Microsoft’s solutions, and will give users real-time visibility into their plant environments and supply chains.

Invensys already produces products using Microsoft’s platform. However, this new alliance will allow Invensys to tightly integrate Microsoft’s platform into Invensys’ future offerings. Microsoft will also help Invensys accelerate development of its enhanced productivity tools, products and customer solutions with broad, horizontal appeal to the manufacturing industry and specific benefits for the hydrocarbons, power and utilities, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical manufacturing segments.

“Our joint development, training and engagement model under the alliance will ensure we deliver solutions with the functionality, longevity, robustness and security that our customers demand,” says Leo Quinn, Invensys Production management’s COO. “The solutions will help our customers address many of the issues that are keeping them awake at night, such as speed to market, diversion of investment to infrastructure issues at the expense of value-added applications, and the retention of intellectual property as more and more highly skilled professionals retire.

“Invensys and Microsoft have similar values that aren’t political and aren’t complicated. Both companies are committed to being market leaders in innovation, and to maintaining a technological edge and the ability to foresee customers’ needs. One main differences this alliance will make is that we’ll be able to accelerate development of solutions around .NET technologies through Microsoft’s technical support capabilities.”

These cornerstones of the alliance will be provided by more strongly linking Invensys’ ArchestrA architecture with Microsoft .NET and Microsoft’s Windows Server System integrated server software. Invensys solutions built on ArchestrA help users achieve business goals without abandoning previous investments in automation systems, production processes or intellectual property. ArchestrA provides a common foundation for automation solutions, and can effectively integrate with a plant’s various systems. By working more closely with Microsoft .NET, Invensys solutions built on ArchestrA will be able to bridge all levels of the enterprise, and take advantage of Microsoft’s installed base in the manufacturing environment.

The alliance’s first goal will be to extend the Invensys ArchestrA architecture using Microsoft .NET to create an adaptive collaborative environment for easily and effectively integrating all production management systems from enterprise resource planning and warehouse management to customer relationship management. The result will be a complete business framework based on Microsoft .NET and web services for manufacturing plants or processes of the future. Invensys and Microsoft engineers also are working together closely to embed ArchestrA at the device level to create Invensys automation systems that are fully appropriate for mission-critical industrial applications.

Alliance benefits brewer
One customer already gaining benefits from Invensys and Microsoft working more closely together is the South American division of SABMiller plc, one of the world’s largest brewers. “We believe we’re on the right path to achieving our operational goals for excellence across our brewing operations with Invensys and Microsoft, but we’re just taking the first steps,” says Thinus Van Schoor, SABMiller’s automation manager. “We’re encouraged by the results so far, such as the cost savings from reduced engineering time and reuse of objects, as well as the way ArchestrA allows us to use standards and best practices. We’re also pleased thus far with the ease of integration and interoperability offered to other systems, as well as the overall flexibility.

“We’ve already captured part of our intellectual property in a library of ArchestrA objects, and we’re making them available to all our plants. By leveraging the objects in our library, we can realize savings. In fact, we’re aggressively targeting engineering cost savings from reusable control modules, process specifications, and process classes or procedures.

“We will not put a standard in place unless it puts man-hours back in the bucket, but so far Invensys and Microsoft’s alliance has helped us save 10-15% on our engineering costs at the valve control level; 20-30% due to reusable process specifications; and reusable process classes have helped save 10-20% on our transfer procedures. The main benefit is that we’re achieving the optimal level of flexibility and speed we need to fit the global market because this alliance’s adaptable reconfiguration fits our purposes, rather then us having to use a one-size-fits-all solution.”

Charles Johnson, worldwide managing director of Microsoft’s manufacturing industry solutions group, adds that, “We believe this is going to be a successful alliance and a great example of how we’re continuing to work with market leaders that use our platform to build solutions that focus on critical areas for our manufacturing customers, such as providing real-time visibility into their plant floors. Invensys not only has the demonstrated domain expertise in a number of important vertical segments, but also one of the longest track records of successfully developing go-to-market solutions based on the Microsoft platform.”

For example, Invensys’ ArchestrA plant automation and information software architecture was designed from the ground up to take advantage of Microsoft .NET and to extend the life of a customer’s existing systems. In addition, Invensys is the world’s second-largest supplier of Microsoft SQL Server and was the first major automation company to incorporate Windows operating system-based workstation applications into a large-scale process control system. More recently, Invensys was the first company to utilize Windows XP for process control system applications and the first to use Windows CE in an optionally redundant industrial module.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Michelle Tegtman, publisher, and Jim Montague, news editor or

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