Integrate plant/enterprise

Together we are more than if we stand alone. How to put that into practice remains the challenge.On the job, we look to integrate manufacturing with the enterprise and beyond. In product selection, we consider services in the life-cycle cost of major purchases. With education, we may seek a wider view.

By Mark T. Hoske January 1, 2001

Together we are more than if we stand alone. How to put that into practice remains the challenge.

On the job, we look to integrate manufacturing with the enterprise and beyond. In product selection, we consider services in the life-cycle cost of major purchases. With education, we may seek a wider view.

Issue theme , “Integrate plant with enterprise,” examines how we network islands of automation within the plant, connect controls with other areas of the plant and enterprise, and link manufacturing into the supply chain. Departments as well as articles in this issue tie into the theme. Manufacturing is finding ways to interconnect with enterprise planning-level systems; models and methods exist to help make that happen. OPC has become an essential part of manufacturers’ competitive advantage. Based on Microsoft software standards, OPC has given vendors a way to spend more time adding value and less time writing drivers. Web technologies like XML promise to create interoperability across operating systems.

Data warehouses, if properly established with “clean” data, can improve user confidence, help process engineers reduce variability and achieve Six Sigma quality.

Information integration can derive from widely distributed sources. Less wiring has become a drawing card for using distributed controls in motion control, but the choice isn’t universal or obvious. Tying information together in the plant and beyond requires a fieldbus, Ethernet, and new hardware that reduces wiring, labor, and other costs. Learning, implementing, and trusting new networks have hindered wider use. In “Product Focus,” readers surveyed rank reliability and ease of configuration/use high among network desires.

Just as the plant is integrating with the enterprise, product services are increasingly recognized as integral to purchasing decisions—part of the product lifecycle.

Demand better service: Take a “services” survey at www.controleng.com starting Feb. 4. Control Engineering editors have been listening at user group meetings, conferences and seminars, and through e-mail. We’ve heard some dissatisfaction with post-sale service support, perhaps resulting from mergers or from increased use of systems built using commercial hardware and software. Some say suppliers don’t understand user needs. Are we only hearing one side? Is post-sale service support what you want, need, and expect?

For three weeks, starting Feb. 4, Control Engineering Online at www.controleng.com will offer readers an opportunity to take a service support survey. By completing the survey and providing your name and contact information, you will be entered in a drawing for one of five $200 e-gift certificates. Results will be reported in the June issue, comparing your service support needs and experiences to those of your peers.

Supply-chain connection : Control Engineering joins 11 other Cahners brands in the Supply Chain Group, representing all aspects of planning, design, forecasting, demand, sourcing, procurement, manufacturing, production, warehousing, inventory, transport, logistics, distribution, sales, service, and e-commerce.

At www.controleng.com connect under the “Other Resources” button on the left to Design News, Manufacturing Systems, Plant Engineering, Purchasing, Industrial Distribution, Warehousing Management, Logistics, Modern Materials Handling, ADC News & Solutions, eCommerce Business , and Supply Chain Management Review . Also connect at www.supplychainlink.com .

Author Information
Mark T. Hoske, Editor-in-Chief mhoske@cahners.com


Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.