MESA International event marked by change, sustainability, SOA

As with this year’s political campaigns, the 2008 MESA International conference in Orlando, Sept. 21-23, focused on change, specifically in four areas: a new chairman, strategic initiatives guidebook updates, sustainability, and SOA-enabled innovation in processes and supporting software.


Orlando, FLprocesses and supporting software applications).
Matt Bauer, director of commercial marketing, Rockwell Automation, and chairman of MESA International for the past two years, is stepping down after this year’s conference. He is being replaced by John Dyck, global director, software business development, Rockwell Automation.
On the strategic initiative front, MESA last year introduced its five strategic initiative working groups, developed to produce guidebooks on their related area of focus: the real-time enterprise; quality and compliance; lean production; product lifecycle management; and asset performance management.
These groups have spent the past year developing the guidebooks centered on the concept of an information-centric manufacturing enterprise. As outgoing MESA chairman, Matt Bauer noted: “Innovation in manufacturing—in productivity, globality, and sustainability—will be built on information.” The guidebooks are now at the draft stage and will be used to help guide the future of MESA in a grassroots manner (members will be able to continuously edit and update the guidelines as they will exist online in a Wiki format).
Green initiatives
Sustainability played a major role in conference presentations. The most notable of which was delivered by Dr. Peter Williams, chief technology officer for IBM’s Big Green Innovations. Williams underscored the role of sustainability in the efficient operation of manufacturing industries, saying: “There is not much difference between lean and green. They go hand in hand because green is all about the smart use of energy and materials.”
Williams noted that much of IBM’s Big Green Innovations programs are based on “an enhanced understanding of planetary and human systems gained via more sensing, advanced metering, and application integration.”
Another issue Williams pointed to that will further drive manufacturers to provide greener products—whether their customers are other manufacturers or individuals—is that “customers will increasingly want companies to provide green products so that they don’t have to think about it,” he said. “As a result, the price of being green will be the price of doing business.”
Service-oriented architectures
MESA recently released its SOA (service oriented architecture) in manufacturing guidebook (available at the Website). Throughout the conference, the SOA topic served as the centerpiece in many discussions on innovative change. Several sessions, including one featuring Jan Baan (founder of former ERP company Baan, current CEO of Cordys, and often described as a serial entrepreneur [he was also behind WebEx]), focused on the use of SOA as an enabler of change that will position business process management (BPM) as the driver of the next generation of applications used to gain visibility into and foster better manufacturing operations decisions.
“The old IT was all about transactions,” said Baan. “The new IT is about BPM. It’s about getting work done by embracing human interaction management.”
SOA is seen as a catalyst for this transition in the way software enables work to get done by permitting data from specific devices and applications to be accessed and altered without the complex coding integration previously required. With SOA, devices and systems can be accessed in an ad hoc manner without changing the underlying structure or software used to operate a plant floor device or system.
MESA panelists were quick to point out that SOA is not just another technology in search of an application. “Driving the need for this [SOA] capability is the need for business adaptability,” said Dave Noller, Manufacturing Solutions Development, IBM. “Legacy systems on their own cannot respond to the new requirements of global manufacturing operations.”
Standards from groups such as ISA, OPC, Mimosa, WBF, and OAGIS are playing an important role in driving the expanded use of SOA in manufacturing. The OpenO&M group is working now to map and converge existing relevant standards from the aforementioned groups for use in SOA applications.
“Integration standards are needed to connect SOA to bus data,” said Noller. “Developing a services bus to aggregate all the data from plant floor systems and devices for use by SOA is the first step, which is then followed by mapping and transformation.”
Participants on the “SOA in manufacturing panel” noted that a services bus is not required to use SOA to connect to the plant floor for business process management uses, but it does serve to create a useful entry for point-to-point connectivity.
Also read, from Control Engineering :

SOA explained

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