FactorySuite 2000 Integrates Modules for Plant Automation

Many "open systems" are less open than they first appear, and this can increase users' integration, maintenance, and upgrade costs.Wonderware Corp.'s (Irvine, Calif.) new FactorySuite 2000 automation software requires no custom interfaces, has no integration costs, and has components that upgrade simultaneously, say company officials.

By Staff March 1, 1998

Many “open systems” are less open than they first appear, and this can increase users’ integration, maintenance, and upgrade costs.

Wonderware Corp.’s (Irvine, Calif.) new FactorySuite 2000 automation software requires no custom interfaces, has no integration costs, and has components that upgrade simultaneously, say company officials.

Unveiled on Jan. 30, FactorySuite 2000 is a more tightly integrated team of automation software components, all with new feature sets that are expected to provide unprecedented functionality and performance for developing plant-floor automation applications. The 2000 version is Microsoft Windows NT-based, provides a common-install procedure for its integrated application programs, and deploys a real-time relational database for its modules. These application modules in the client/server package apply Microsoft ActiveX for improved ease of use. FactorySuite 2000’s application development kit includes all six modules for a U.S. list price of $9,950.

News of FactorySuite 2000’s arrival was closely followed by the Feb. 24 announcement that Wonderware has agreed to be acquired by Siebe plc (Windsor, Berkshire, U.K.) for about $375 million (See related coverage in this issue’s Up Front section.)

“FactorySuite 2000 is the most important software introduction in the history of industrial automation,” claims Roy Slavin, Wonderware’s president and ceo. “It allows plant engineers and management to solve literally any plant floor application problem. And with the unprecedented integration of its application modules in a single powerful real-time relational database, all production data collected on the plant floor are now instantly available to corporate computing applications such as manufacturing or enterprise resource planning (MRP/ERP), scheduling and financial applications.

“A primary feature of the suite is the new 7.0 module of our Wonderware InTouch human-machine interface (HMI) program, which serves as the common GUI [graphical user interface] and client visualization portion of the FactorySuite. It includes an application explorer to enhance navigation among the integrated suite components and it functions as an ActiveX container, so users can also drop any third-party ActiveX objects into any FactorySuite application window for plug-and-play extension of the suite’s application capabilities.”

InTouch HMI module runs on both Windows NT and 95, while the runtime application can be run as an NT service. InTouch 7.0 provides support for up to 60,000 tag names and a new tag name browser provides easier handling. Tag names on other InTouch nodes can be browsed, then incorporated by remote reference without creating a local tag name. Tags on InControl and InBatch nodes can be browsed and used as well.

The suite includes a family of I/O Server interfaces for connecting to plant-floor devices, including the new fieldbus protocols. All data are time and quality stamped. A new SuiteLink protocol provides peer-to-peer communications among FactorySuite components, and between clients and I/O servers. FactorySuite is also an OPC client, which allows access to added devices.

In addition, Wonderware’s IndustrialSQL Server real-time relational database works as the primary data management tool for the suite’s modules. It allows users to capture thousands of real-time plant floor data points simultaneously; provides mix-and-match of real-time and historical data for relating events to time-based data; adds event properties; and simplifies installation and configuration procedures.

FactorySuite 2000’s other enhancements of the original suite’s application components include:

InControl, a module that has new interfaces to many more types of devices. It also now contains fuzzy logic objects and new ActiveX controls for motion-control applications. Using DCOM, it provides distributed control capabilities;

InTrack WIP tracking module, which has ActiveX objects to build custom dialogs rather than just use predefined dialog boxes. It also provides enhanced scrap tracking and control features and new user control over inventory consumption rates;

InBatch flexible batch management module, which incorporates enhanced recipe development tools as well as ActiveX controls for access to batch execution information and sequencing. It now offers signature authority capabilities to meet new system functionality authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and

Scout browser and server components, which provides new functionality for remote application viewing and data collection via the Internet or a corporate intranet, allowing easy linkage of plant-floor activities to other corporate applications.

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