This article was printed in CONTROL's March 2009 edition.
Control system/ERP integration requires close cooperation among multiple departments. For process automation pros more used to working within their silos, this can be a real challenge. System integrator Maverick Technologies has implemented scores of control system/ERP integration projects for a number of process industry clients. Maverick vice-president of business solutions, Chris Jones, describes how his company gets buy-in from all departments by making the business case first. “Our biggest integration challenge is not technical, it’s identifying the business objective of linking the control system to the ERP systems,” says Jones.
If the business objective is not identified beforehand and agreed to by all affected parties, then the cooperation needed to implement the project will be non-existent.
“It is often difficult for organizations to understand what kind of information they want to bring in. What is the important information? How will it be used? It’s not just how to get data in and out. Companies are always saying they want data, but if they don’t do anything with the data, the project will fail,” adds Jones.
“The real challenge is finding the business objective. For example, does our customer want better information about actual materials consumption and about ingredients and lots in a batch so they can improve quality? This could allow a process manufacturer to leverage relationships with customers as the highest-quality producer. So one has to find the business drivers for integration, specifically identifying specific value that will be delivered,” explains Jones.
“That is where we come in. Maverick has the depth and breadth in these industries and has worked with a variety of technologies and applications. We can take a consultative approach and find out the business drivers and objectives, such as quality, throughput, downtime, capacity or a combination thereof. And based on the current conditions existing in the facility, we can put in processes and access to information―integration that will drive real change,” concludes Jones.