Beaming it up to the enterprise

Getting aggregated data from the plant up through the enterprise is the easy part, according to Editor in Chief Walt Boyes, but getting realtime data to the enterprise level is much harder than we'd like to admit.

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  By Walt Boyes, Editor in Chief

I

n the November ControlGlobal.com web poll, one reader voted for “We have a plan and we are moving forward confidently” with integrating their plant floor to the enterprise, and then commented, “Problem is we have been moving forward confidently for years and we still have nothing!” Another reader responded the same and quipped: “But don’t hold your breath.”

I’ve been around long enough to know that stuff happens when it is supposed to happen, but it seems to me that the process industries have been going round and round about connecting the plant floor to the enterprise for the better part of two decades now, and the results have been less than spectacular. And that’s being charitable.

I think that the reasons for this conspicuous failure are simpler than we’d like to admit.
Getting aggregated data from the plant to the enterprise is relatively easy. We’ve been doing that for years. Getting realtime data to the enterprise in a format that makes sense to users at the enterprise level is much harder, and we haven’t made that work well. Part of the problem is that ownership of the data, and thus the responsibility for what use is made of it, changes several times between the process and the boardroom.

In our book, e-Business in Manufacturing (ISA Press, 2002) Shari Worthington and I included a sidebar called “Transforming the Manufacturing Enterprise” (p119–122). Written mostly by Charlie Gifford, a MESA white paper guru currently with GE Fanuc, and myself, the sidebar is a 20-point checklist for transforming the manufacturing organization into a fully integrated enterprise. Our point was, and my point still is, that most enterprise integration plans do not include many of these essential points.

The points that most plans leave out are the ones dealing with what information is important, what the ROI of the information delivery is going to be, who the stakeholders are, and how to involve the entire supply chain in the process. It is about ownership, and responsibility, not about technology.

At Automation Fair 2004, Rockwell Automation presented a keynote address by Flo Mostaccero and Dennis Puffer, respectively senior  vice president, technical services and business process development; and chief brewery operations officer at Coors Brewing Co. Entitled “How to Be World Class,” their presentation was noteworthy because of its emphasis on putting people before technology.

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“Our approach to world class is to adopt it as a way of life,” Puffer said. “It starts with our employees.” Mostaccero put it bluntly. “The typical answer to a need like ours is technology,” she said, “but we go there last. People are the ones who truly drive manufacturing excellence; they come up with the new ideas and processes.” Coors is in the process of a disciplined implementation of proven manufacturing and business processes, she says, “and the technology are the tools (the employees) can use.”

The key, Mostaccero and Puffer believe, is to “build the car around the driver.” Instead of adjusting practices to suit the technology, Coors first started with the processes themselves. “We’ve mapped processes first, right down to the 37 specific tasks the operator has to do,” Mostaccero said. Once they got the processes down, they began to evaluate the enterprise integration tools necessary for the operator “to do his job and own it,” and for the enterprise to become world class.

Puffer noted that it was critical that plant leaders and middle management be sold on the integration plan, since “it really alters their roles.” And, he pointed out, “we need to stay focused, so our employees trust that this isn’t a ‘program of the month.’ ”

So, tell me: How does this compare with the way you are approaching enterprise integration?

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