North America: More than network cables & databases

Enterprise connectivity is one North American trend.


As you read through the pages of our annual Global Supplement, it will become readily apparent that we’re all wrestling with the same or similar issues… regardless of geography. From developing best practices to increase productivity to the ubiquitous need to “go green,” participating in the global economy often means contenting with universal challenges.
For all the remarkable similarities, however, cultural differences can play a major role in collaboration. This is true across companies as well as across international borders, and nowhere is this more apparent than within the increasingly-complex worlds of information technology (IT) and operations management.
For the past decade, the concept of connecting plant-level and business-level systems into a single seamless network has been both valid and vigorously pursued. With the advent of Ethernet and web-enabled technologies in the industrial space, connecting the “shop floor to the top floor” has become a reality. However, as the technical barriers between these two worlds continue to erode, the cultural barriers are still prevalent in many places.
Historically, the IT departments and the manufacturing teams have operated within two distinct and separate worlds– operating independently, managed independently and budgeted independently. The manufacturing team has productivity and up-time numbers to worry about, while the IT team has been tasked with – at the risk of over exaggerating – ensuring that everything with an “on” button is up-and-running properly… and never the ‘twain shall meet. But that scenario is rapidly changing and intersections between these two departments are no longer the exception, they’re the norm.
According to a recent Control Engineering / Reed Research survey, IT teams are becoming increasingly involved in the purchase decision of solutions on the plant floor. Nearly three-quarters of respondents indicated that their IT teams had either heavy or moderate involvement in the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) purchasing decision. Only 7% indicated that the MES project was driven solely by operations and finance. Furthermore, 69% indicated that their MES systems either connect with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems today or will in the near future. Further evidence that the two worlds are blending.
This dynamic is due largely to the prevailing market conditions which force manufacturers across all verticals to “do more with less” and focus their efforts on process and business improvements. Readers indicated that their primary reason for implementing an MES solution was to improve productivity or throughput, followed closely by reducing costs and errors. The fine-tuning necessary to achieve these goals is virtually impossible without the level of data granularity made possible by providing access to plant floor data.
--by Marc Moschetto, Editorial Director, Control Engineering

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