Get ready

There's an initiative coming your way, if it hasn't already. It's from corporate, and it will directly impact you. It goes by many names, but is most often referred to as the "real-time enterprise." Don't roll your eyes too quickly upon hearing those words. The real-time enterprise initiative differs from previous ERP and/or supply-chain efforts.

By David Greenfield June 1, 2003

There’s an initiative coming your way, if it hasn’t already. It’s from corporate, and it will directly impact you. It goes by many names, but is most often referred to as the “real-time enterprise.”

Don’t roll your eyes too quickly upon hearing those words. The real-time enterprise initiative differs from previous ERP and/or supply-chain efforts. It may have been easy to grumble and grouse about those enterprise systems; because of their transactional nature, they rarely impinged on your day-to-day operation. You might have even had a chuckle or two at IT’s expense as projects ran over budget and didn’t deliver promised ROI.

The real-time enterprise is a different story because it doesn’t function without your data. The plant floor and all its assorted control systems are ground zero for this initiative.

Let me explain why.

Although exact definitions differ by vendor and analyst group, a real-time enterprise system collects data from disparate plant-floor sources and moves information throughout the enterprise. This happens via software that bridges plant-floor and corporate systems, and allows decision-makers (at all levels) to have visibility into production processes.

Real time, schmeal time, you say. Control engineers know how to apply real time to applications as needed. What does this initiative really have to do with me?

Corporate will push to ensure the quality and viability of your data and integrate it with ERP, CRM, and supply-chain systems. That’s why I say, “get ready.” Don’t allow yourself to be left out of the loop or you may find yourself implementing systems that may not be the best choice. Arm yourself with knowledge about your company’s plans or intentions in this area. Learn as much as you can about real-time solution vendors so that you’ll understand the various strengths and weaknesses you may have to confront.

And if you’re hearing no murmurs at your company about the real-time enterprise, don’t assume you’re safe. These initiatives are only in their most early stages at a few of the more leading edge companies—a circumstance reminiscent of the early days of ERP in the early 1990s. Due to the lackluster economy and the digestion of previous software binges, few companies have had the stomach to fling themselves onto the real-time enterprise bandwagon. But when the economy turns around, don’t be surprised if you start hearing those three words or some variant thereof.

Let me know what you think about the real-time enterprise hubbub. Do you, too, see it bearing down on your future, or is it just a lot of hype that’ll pass in the next year or so? Also, now that you’ve got a copy of Control Engineering sporting our new redesign, let me know what you think.

David Greenfield, Editorial Director dgreenfield@reedbusiness.com