Connecting plant and enterprise: more than Ethernet and databases

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 and increasing productivity to the ubiquitous need to “go green,” participating in the global economy often means contending with universal challenges.
By Marc A. Moschetto, Editorial Director, Control Engineering North America March 1, 2008

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 and increasing productivity to the ubiquitous need to “go green,” participating in the global economy often means contending 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.

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 are either connected with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems today or will be in the near future — further evidence that the two worlds are blending. Similarly, manufacturing systems, processes and trends are blending globally. We are all, indeed, interconnected.