Standards, software tools deliver manufacturing productivity


Oak Brook, IL- Greater use of standards and better software tools are two ways manufacturers are increasing productivity from the plant floor up through the organization. Today's manufacturing challenges are many-global competition; price, cost, and time-to-market pressures; customer needs; customization pressure; outsourcing; quality and efficiency; and need to improve and connect business processes.

Pressures on Manufacturing Productivity
Pressures on manufacturing productivity include:

  • Cost of time, materials, and processes

  • Customer demands for better service over product lifecycle

  • Customization

  • Demands for faster time-to-market

  • Desire to connect/streamline business processes

  • Global competition

  • Outsourcing

  • Price of goods sold

  • Quality

  • Standards, tariffs, other economic barriers.

Source: Control Engineering

OPC Foundation (Scottsdale, AZ) improves manufacturing by delivering non-proprietary technical specifications. Getting control and automation manufacturers to agree on the best course hasn't always been easy, but results ensure interoperability advantages among automation/control applications, field systems/devices, and business/office applications. OPC efforts cover data access, XML, alarms and events interface standards, and Ethernet.

Each time software vendors can write to a general specification, an OPC "translator," there's more time and resources for adding value to the core software, instead of writing custom drivers. OPC estimates that as much as 30% of engineering development time for a supervisory-control software developer is spent writing drivers.

Concerning the OPC Data eXchange (DX) standard, scheduled to be released Oct. 21, Mr. Burke says that, "OPC has always been based on a vision of moving data from the plant-floor to the enterprise to the Web. So, we're not seeking to replace ProfiNet or FOUNDATION fieldbus. We just want to provide a mechanism for interoperability among different Ethernet-based networks."

As for specific software tools, many aim to improve manufacturing productivity. Raw data easily overloads users without providing the information needed to make decisions to improve the plant or enterprise. Rather than simply collecting and viewing historical information, there's a need to gather real-time data from many sources within plants, combine and analyze it, and turn it into useful information, personalized for individual users.

A relatively new class of software shows key performance indicators for manufacturing, design, sales, logistics, or whatever needs monitoring. The Microsoft (Redmond, WA) Digital Dashboard Resource Kit helps aggregate information from throughout the organization and supply chain in one location. GE Fanuc (Charlottesville, VA) calls its Manufacturing Intelligence portal a "Digital Cockpit." Based on the Honeywell (Phoenix, AZ) PlantScape Distributed Server Architecture (DSA), eServer bridges the process control and enterprise domains. These tools, like a human-machine interface on steroids, can be rapidly customized to fit users' needs and changing business goals.

Control Engineering (Oak Brook, IL; will conduct two webcasts in October 2002 on how automation tools boost productivity. These webcasts will be accessible in an archive after October.

The two, free online events will be moderated by Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering's editor-in-chief. The 2 p.m. (EST) Oct. 17 Make Pavilion keynote session features Tom Burke, OPC Foundation president and advisory software developer at Rockwell Automation, covering "Standard roadmap to manufacturing productivity." The 11 a.m. (EST) Oct. 16 Make Pavilion Roundtable, "Everything you need to know on one screen," features Jamie Bohan, business manager for Honeywell Industry Solutions' Uniformance product line; Chris Colyer, Microsoft's group industry marketing manager for manufacturing; Kevin Roach, global solutions business vp for GE Fanuc, part of GE Industrial Systems.

For more information or to register for the webcasts visit .

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief

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