By Doug Bartholomew In an unusual meshing of vastly different providers of technology, enterprise software firm IFS and the automation unit of global giant ABB have formed an alliance to integrate enterprise asset management software and process controls on the plant floor. The goal is to enable manufacturers to optimize production and maintenance management, thereby reducing reliance on manual inspection of equipment and improving uptime. "With a history of working together on several international projects, we are very pleased to have formed a more strategic relationship with ABB," says Manni Svensson, senior vice president of global marketing at IFS, with U.S. offices in Tucson. "We aim to bridge the traditional gap between manufacturing and administrative systems. The next step in the IT 'evolution' is to realize seamless integration between Open Control Systems and the full suite of business applications." ABB offers Control IT, a suite of software and hardware products to control and improve a wide range of industrial processes. IFS applications include Web-based enterprise software, a CRM package, supply-chain management systems, and a host of Internet-based applications.