Rockwell Automation puts emphasis on convergence at conference
Automation Fair focus is on plant/IT cooperation
Rockwell Automation has released results of a new study representing a broad cross-section of manufacturing industries revealing that companies
progressing toward converging their IT and controls engineering organizations are reaping major benefits, including higher efficiency, increased reliability, shorter project timelines and better business continuity. The study, released at Automation Fair in Memphis in November, also found that those with more integration between these functions experience less conflict and are more optimistic about the future of convergence.
The objective of the study, which analyzed responses from more than 300 control engineers and IT/IS professionals, was to gain insight into convergence trends and identify barriers, as well as best practices that companies are using to accelerate the process. The study also supports recommendations outlined in a white paper commissioned earlier this year by Rockwell Automation and authored by analyst firm Industry Directions and consultant firm Systems Innovation Management outlining the potential benefits of IT/Controls convergence.
“These findings confirm many of the performance advantages that we had long suspected come from stronger collaboration between IT and controls departments, and we’ve uncovered a few new ones as well,” said Kevin Roach, vice president of software, Rockwell Automation.
The study identified management involvement as the most influential and effective driver of convergence. In fact, the analysis showed that in more integrated companies, 90% of the respondents indicated that senior management is “promoting change” or is “somewhat involved”. Conversely, in companies where IT and control engineering is less integrated, 40% of the respondents described senior management as “uninvolved in driving change”.
The study also found that those with IT/IS responsibilities tended to be more aggressive toward seeking and initiating progress toward convergence. This correlates with the differences in how the two groups evaluate the advantages of convergence.
According to the results, 67% of IT respondents indicated that convergence had more advantages than disadvantages, compared to only 39% of controls engineers.
The survey also revealed some unexpected benefits of convergence, including improved security; improved visibility across multiple plants; improved disaster recovery; and reduced system complexity due to improved designs. Other findings gave insight on the positive impact that convergence is having on various manufacturing processes and programs. Those initiatives where convergence is showing the most impact include:
Information and internet protocol availability and security
Lean manufacturing or lean enterprise
Total quality programs like Six Sigma
“Just as manufacturers realize the strategic importance of integrated information, many are now beginning to realize the need to create an integrated environment where plant-floor and IT functions are managed in a collaborative, synchronized manner,” Roach said. “This converged framework allows teams to better collaborative to assess current manufacturing and IT systems, and begin to set standards for integration, data management and future technology investments.”
A summary of the study’s key findings is available as a supplement to the white paper titled, “Come Together: IT-Engineering-Manufacturing Convergence Furthers Success”. This paper, released in June 2007, summarizes the conclusions from a series of in-depth interviews conducted with manufacturing and IT professionals earlier this year.
For a copy of the original IT-Engineering Convergence Whitepaper, please visit: www.rockwellautomation.com/go/converge .
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