Capitalizing on IT and Manufacturing Convergence

Can’t we all just get along? If you’re talking about plant floor engineers and corporate IT personnel, the answer often is a resounding “no.”

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However, the usual economic forces have been flowing over this resistant organizational rock, and there’s evidence that it too is beginning to wear down. However, this doesn’t mean it’s a pain-free process.

To help control engineers, automation professionals and end-user manufacturers cooperate more effectively with their IT colleagues, Rockwell Automation and a panel of invited experts presented “Capitalizing on the Convergence Between IT and Manufacturing” during its Manufacturing Perspectives media day on Nov. 13 before the opening of this week’s Automation Fair 2007 in Chicago.

The panel was moderated by Mike Jackson, Rockwell Automation’s vice president and CIO, and the panelists included Bruce Anderson, vice president for global business services and supply chain management at IBM; Chris Colyer, worldwide industry director of manufacturing operation strategy at Microsoft; Steve Miraglia, vice president of biotechnology technology and engineering at Wyeth; and Chet Namboodri, global director of manufacturing industry solutions at Cisco.

“As you look to improve operational performance, you can break the resulting pain into four basic areas: people, assets, processes, and information and events.” Microsoft's Chris Colyer participated in a panel discussion on the potential benefits of IT and manufacturing convergence.
Going Green

First at bat, Anderson presented “The Evolving Green Challenge for Manufacturing,” and reported that much of IBM’s $91 billion size in 2006 comes from manufacturing, such as its East Fishkill campus, which automates chip manufacturing with a network of sensors connected by 600 miles of network cable. To better manage its compliance and regulation, legacy system scalability, warranty risk, faster design cycles, volatile demand signals, ERP maturity, and reduced computing costs, Anderson said IBM last year began exploring ways to improve its manufacturing automation to reduce time to market and total cost of ownership, and improve asset performance and lessen business risk.

Chief among the methods that IBM is seeking to incorporate in its manufacturing automation practices is “green” or “sustainable” manufacturing, which it defines as the creation of manufactured products that use processes that are nonpolluting, conserve energy and natural resources, are economically sound, and safe for employees, communities and consumers.

Anderson explained that green manufacturing is driven by compliance and regulation, increasing energy/raw material/waste disposal costs, a strategic view of environmental costs, environmentally aware customers, product strategy and consumers making more moral purchases.

“IBM’s outlook on environmental leadership encompasses all business units within the company, including research, product design, manufacturing, procurement, logistics, distribution, health, medical, marketing and branding,” said Anderson. “The impact of green manufacturing requires us to rethink manufacturing fundamentals from simply adhering to government rules, heavily manual EH&S data collection for compliance, Six Sigma, and supply chain management to reducing carbon emissions and water consumption, automated environmental data collection and reporting for optimization, Green Sigma, and a sustainable value chain.”

Anderson added that IBM believes green manufacturing can be a self-funding proposition. Other drivers include rising utility costs, environmental regulations, overproduction, annual incremental cost reduction and process improvement, traceability and genealogy, quality issues, and company image. The benefits of green manufacturing include lower operational costs while reducing carbon footprint, reducing waste in unnecessary production costs, improved margins, avoiding carbon footprint penalties, and demonstrating that an organization is environmentally responsible.

“IBM estimates that, over the past eight years, annual savings from its focus on pollution prevention and design for the environment have exceeded environmental expenses by an average of two to one,” said Anderson. “Consequently, carbon management is a corporate-wide responsibility, and there are large opportunities in manufacturing, and production processes play a significant role in optimizing the carbon footprint.

“As a result, production at IBM is being managed to optimize its carbon footprint, staff is jointly engaging in real-time carbon usage production reporting, and truck balancing/loading effort are being supported. Green initiatives should be considered in all functional areas of the plant.”

Manufacturing Operations

Second up, Colyer delivered “Manufacturing Operations Convergence of IT and Operations,” and described what Microsoft sees as a series of emerging information architectures for global manufacturing. These begin with equipment control systems and machine, material and execution procedures, and move up through data collection, operator and batch control systems, and onward to manufacturing operations and control systems, and finally to business planning and logistics systems.

“As you look to improve operational performance, you can break the resulting pains into four basic areas: people, assets, processes, and information and events,” said Colyer. “So, what are the pains on the people side? Basically, there are too many systems, too many different software packages, pieces of data, and ways of looking at that data. And, there’s data overload, and no clear way to see what’s meaningful. There is no good role-based information. There’s just a big flow of information that each person has to decipher in his or her own way. If I can solve those issues, I can improve my productivity and reaction time.

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