Kevin Parker: Good reasons to get a grip on the details of plant operations frameworks

To hear Peter Martin say it, most process-industry production plants are rife with conflict: between the engineering and information technology functions and between maintenance and operations as well. While turf battles are as old as work itself, these tensions are exacerbated, says Martin, by emerging globalization and corporate governance trends that have placed new demands on manufacturing ...

08/01/2007


To hear Peter Martin say it, most process-industry production plants are rife with conflict: between the engineering and information technology functions and between maintenance and operations as well.

While turf battles are as old as work itself, these tensions are exacerbated, says Martin, by emerging globalization and corporate governance trends that have placed new demands on manufacturing systems.

It's hard to imagine Martin—an ebullient man with an evident passion for his work as VP, manager of performance management for Invensys Process Systems—involved in any such wide-ranging conflict, but in this case he comes as a peacemaker.

It is his contention that these tensions culminate in the need for an “enterprise control system,” such as Invensys' InFusion, which, by putting isolated production instances into a global supply chain context, replace conflict with common, agreed-upon goals.

AMR Research in mid-July launched a “new framework,” called Manufacturing 2.0. It's not really about blogs and wikis, though, but it is very much about “broad vendor adoption of manufacturing SOA architectures….”

InFusion, introduced a little more than a year ago, is just such a one, and at the recent Invensys Foxboro User Group meeting, discussions focused on how the InFusion concept and technology were being applied to the realities of the installed base.

And that's really a big part of the whole point, to achieve integration “by using manufacturing SOA instead of ripping and replacing existing investments,” says Collin Masson of AMR Research in a July article, “Defining next-generation manufacturing.”

Masson goes on to say, “While the promise of manufacturing SOA is real, it largely exists on the Microsoft.NET technology stack, and manufacturing services have evolved in the absence of complete standards and manufacturing master data management strategies.”

In fact, InFusion has a Microsoft .NET kernel, around which Invensys has placed a wrapper of industrial services that include a common object environment, extended security services, and two dozen other needed capabilities.

Based on presentations from Invensys' Grant Lesueur, whose grasp of InFusion's intricacies belies his marketing title, users' questions about options for applying InFusion in Foxboro I/A environments were explored, and first steps to be taken by users in applying plant SOA were examined.

One reason InFusion's aggregated plant view is needed is because of staffing upheaval at production plants in recent years. “IT took the most cuts, engineering second. Plants are running with half the engineers they had 10 years ago,” says Martin.

Key performance indicators end up being a big part of the overall picture. Conflict between maintenance and operations arises because, “the KPI for maintenance is uptime, or availability; while the KPI for operations is throughput, or utilization,” says Martin.

What would unite all these disparate groups would be if everyone looked at real-time financial metrics as the basis for decisions. And this is Martin's true passion: the possibility of production management based on real-time understanding of financial impact across the supply chain. It's also the ultimate goal for InFusion, and of new composite applications arising from Foxboro's SAP partnership. There's a devil in those details, though, and Martin will need all of his persuasive powers to exorcise it.





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