In what could well be the start of a trend in manufacturing, System Software Associates this week began offering dcServ, an integration system to connect plant-floor information systems with its BPCS Client/Server ERP system. SSA reports that 30 companies are already implementing dcServe to obtain real-time data capture at some 50 sites. "The ability to seamlessly integrate a wide variety of data-capture systems to BPCS Client/Server allows our clients to receive mission-critical information from the plant floor immediately," says Bob Markese, vice president for North American operations at SSA in Chicago. Among process manufacturers, generally only leading-edge companies have integrated ERP and manufacturing execution systems (MES), reports Julie Fraser, director of market strategies at Industry Directions, an IT research firm in Newburyport, Mass. In a survey of process manufacturers conducted for MES software firm Aspen Technology Inc., Cambridge, Mass., Fraser found the primary reason companies want to make this connection is to boost visibility into manufacturing as a way to improve their supply chain.