Automation boundaries continue to expand
The line between the plant floor and the business systems continues to blur. More and more traditional automation hardware and software suppliers (big and small) are getting into the so-called MES space. This week at the 12th annual ARC Forum in Orlando, executives from various manufacturing companies are meeting to share winning strategies and best practices. A common theme of many forum presentations is the goal of achieving manufacturing excellence through MES and architecture standards.
On Monday, Mitsubishi Electric Automation introduced e-F@ctory manufacturing solution. e-F@ctory is Mitsubishi Electric’s vision for manufacturing that unifies its control hardware and networks with enterprise IT systems offered by strategic partner companies, including IBM and ILS Technology.
"This is truly groundbreaking technology that provides the tools to immediately improve almost any enterprise’s bottom line through increased productivity, reduced lead-times and waste," said John Browett, product marketing manager, Mitsubishi Electric Automation. "e-F@ctory was born out of the expertise we developed in-house through facing our own challenges as a global manufacturing enterprise."
The three companies went on to announce they are delivering a service oriented architecture (SOA) solution that is specifically designed for the automotive manufacturing industry. ILS Technology’s deviceWISE embedded software is integrated into the Mitsubishi Electric e-F@ctory Portfolio and links IBM’s and plant floor technologies together. These frameworks are used to connect the device tier to the enterprise-IT tier.
Another small but well-known software company, Kepware, announced that it has partnered with Oracle to provide manufacturing plant floor execution data to Oracle’s manufacturing applications. The latest generation of Kepware's OPC server technology, KEPServerEX, was designed to allow users to quickly setup communications from equipment to control and business systems via a wide range of available "plug-in" device drivers and components.
"This relationship is enabling customers to leverage the full benefits of OPC as an open technology enabling connectivity within the automation marketplace," stated Thomas Burke, President of the OPC Foundation. "The combined solution will offer connectivity to virtually any plant floor data through the use of Kepware drivers, or their new OPC Client implementation. Kepware’s additional support to create complex data, as part of this effort, will form the foundation for OPC-UA connectivity in the near future," he added.
These are just a few examples of how automation suppliers are collaborating with ERP companies to offer complete solutions to manufacturing companies. Individual automaton systems are a must, but they are no longer enough. The typical boundaries of automation continue to expand to include real-time business system integration. Manufacturers must leverage supplier collaborations to improve operations and achieve manufacturing excellence.
How is the looming recession affecting the automation industry? (continued)
I want to thank everyone who responded to my editorial last week on the looming recession and the automation industry. It’s always interesting to hear other perspectives, particularly on this controversial topic. Check out the forum responses and post your own comments.
Enjoy the rest of this Automation Weekly!
Vice President, Publisher