Middleware Melds Manufacturing Info

March 5, 2009
Integration Projects Use Some Type of Middleware
This article was printed in CONTROL's March 2009 edition.

While direct links between control systems and ERP systems are possible, most integration projects use some type of middleware. When a leading biotech manufacturer needed to tie its Delta V control system to its SAP ERP software, it partnered with Emerson Process Management and used its Syncade Smart Operations middleware.

The manufacturing systems and software consisted of intelligent PlantWeb instruments and devices at ISA95 level 1; a DeltaV digital automation system at ISA95 level 2; Syncade Smart Operations software, a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) and a laboratory information management system (LIMS) at ISA95 Level 3; and SAP at ISA95 Level 4.

The project delivered electronic batch records from DeltaV to SAP via Syncade and webMethods software. The middleware also integrated with the CMMS and the LIMS to help ensure regulatory compliance by providing complete electronic records. 

“The key to successful implementation of this project was the robustness of the boundary and synchronization between the systems,” says Chris Amstutz, director of project engineering at Emerson Process Management.

“Each system has a defined role with specific requirements and preferred data models to accomplish its task, so each system was unique and dissimilar to the other systems. Definition of the ERP/MES transactions was critical, but once these transactions are defined, implementation was fairly straightforward. Any time boundaries are crossed between systems, special consideration should be taken to address potential scenarios,” adds Amstutz.

One such scenario is described by Amstutz. “Transactions are typically sent from a system and no further action is required, but critical transactions provide control of forward processing decisions. For example, an operator may need status for a work-in-progress material during manufacturing processing. If the ERP system maintains this material status, what happens if this data cannot be retrieved? In this case, the end user is notified that the link to SAP is down.  If the link is down, but the status can be retrieved manually, the user is allowed to proceed after a quality sign off,” explains Amstutz.

Read Clearing the Integration Hurdles and lear how control system/ERP integration is more profitable and technically easier than ever.