The whys and hows of enterprise integration

CONTROL's Senior Tech Editor Rich Merritt reports on enterprise integration, who's doing it, how well it is going, and how information is provided from the process control system to enterpise-level software.

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Todd Stauffer, PCS 7 marketing manager at Siemens, agrees. “Enterprise integration can also mean increasing the quality of the manufactured products,” he says. “Optimization of production assets can’t be performed by relying only on the capabilities of the process control system. Truly optimizing the performance of these assets requires looking at the incremental benefits that can be achieved by using MES, ERP, CMMS, asset management, advanced diagnostics, loop tuning and advanced control.”

Pat Kennedy, CEO of OSIsoft, says ES is profitable. “Although there have been a lot of painful mistakes with ERP implementations, high value is precisely the reason that they keep trying,” he notes. “We had one pulp and paper user that set up an energy trading desk for five paper mills. They invested $70,000 and made $1 million, and will make the same $1 million per year forever. We had a power utility user that set up remote operations and management for their power stations and reported a $3 per year return for every $1 spent. We had a steel complex that reported a +20% increase in plant availability by going to proactive instead of reactive maintenance. Those that confine their operations and analytics skills to inside the process control network are toast.”

“The ultimate objective is real-time, closed-loop business control via what we call ‘real-time finance’,” says Peter Martin, VP of Invensys Process Systems. “To provide the process and business measurements and information flows needed to implement real-time finance, plant and enterprise systems and applications must not just be connected, but actually unified into a single ‘system.’ This departs dramatically from the traditional view that real-time control systems and transactional business systems are in entirely separate domains.

“With such a unified system, users could, for example, take advantage of the real-time calculation capability in the control systems to calculate accounting information in real time; aggrandize that information to shift daily and weekly accounting totals in the plant historian; then merge that information into the ES finance system. In another example, real-time condition monitoring information developed in the control and maintenance systems can be used to trigger an appropriate action in the business system, as determined by current business objectives.”

Jeffery Cawley, market development VP at Northwest Analytical, agrees that process control and ES are becoming unified. “If manufacturing firms are going to run their enterprise based on key performance indicator (KPIs), then information from both process and enterprise systems must be combined,” he explains. “That’s why enterprise applications need access to process system data. The reverse also is true: the people running the process need to be able to incorporate selected KPIs in decision making, and need to do much better at asset management, which requires information that is owned by the enterprise applications.”

Cawley adds control system vendors are making money from all this. “Control system vendors are moving up the system levels much like the ERP vendors are moving down. This product line diversification is designed to expand their market opportunities. The line dividing functions between the ERP and related applications (MES, SCM) is becoming blurred as manufacturing management and enterprise applications take on functions like asset management and scheduling.”

Woolfrey of Yokogawa agrees about the need to provide access both ways. “The information ES holds that is critical to plant operations comes from their role in managing the plant’s supply chain and in managing the plant’s equipment maintenance,” he says. “ES contains important information about the quality, cost, and timing of raw materials delivered to a plant; the plant’s production schedule; and the quality, sales price and timing of shipments to customers. Important information held by ES about plant maintenance includes parts availability, repair schedules, and personnel required to make repairs.” 

Going the other direction, he says, “Plant control systems hold large amounts of information as well, but the critical information they hold for ES are rates and conditions of plant operations and the status of equipment.  Plant control systems hold information about the actual quantity and quality of raw materials, plant capacity, current and historical production rates, the quality and location of finished products, and the usage and condition of plant equipment.”

How does all this benefit the control people? One benefit is eliminating the “whipsaw” effect that Paulonis observed. “When a supplier ships raw materials, the ES knows the quality and quantity of those shipments, and can notify the plant control system,” says Woolfrey. “When a customer places or removes orders, the ES can again promptly notify the plant control system.”

Next, there’s ES software’s maintenance benefit. “If a piece of equipment fails or is predicted to fail, the plant control system can ask the ES to help develop a repair schedule based on its knowledge of the plant’s production schedule, maintenance parts, and personnel availability,” he says.

Chris Boothroyd, product manager at Honeywell agrees. “After production plans and schedules, by far the most common example of plant-relevant information are maintenance plans and history,” he says. “Customers want to view near-real-time information about a pump or vessel to monitor the process and/or equipment performance. However, when something goes awry, they also want to know what the most recent maintenance activity was on that pump, and when the next planned maintenance will occur. Of course, they can get this information from the ERP system, but only by logging on to ERP, remembering the correct transactions, finding the right equipment, running the right report, etc. It’s simply too hard and wastes too much time.”

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