Integrating IT With Manufacturing

May 11, 2007
ODVA members Cisco and Rockwell Automation collaborate to simplify manufacturing connectivity.

Remember when the factory floor and enterprise IT were two separate, unconnected worlds? Unfortunately, integrating these two disparate departments still remains a challenge for much of manufacturing, according to Cisco Systems and Rockwell Automation. Their advice: Think of integrating them as a way of future-proofing your business.

To provide a solution, both firms, as members of ODVA, a network standards association, have launched a network integration initiative. The collaboration, announced at the Hannover Messe trade show in April, combines a co-developed reference architecture with market education efforts.

The focus is to help manufacturers gain competitive advantage through the visibility, flexibility and collaboration possible with optimized network integration, says Paul McNab, Cisco's vice president of enterprise marketing. The approach's important differentiator is the use of standard, unmodified Ethernet.

The key value comes from maximizing a manufacturer's collaboration possibilities. "Manufacturers [typically] operate in an environment that requires a pervasive exchange of information across all domains of the manufacturing enterprise," says Craig Resnick, research director with analyst firm ARC Advisory Group. "As manufacturers move into a global business climate that demands the integration of manufacturing operations and business systems, collaboration must move beyond hype to become a commonplace reality."

Steve Eisenbrown, senior vice president of architecture and software, Rockwell AutomationThe validated, lab-tested architectures, part of Cisco's "Ethernet to the Factory" solution, will enable the successful deployment of Ethernet-based production networks and secure integration with the rest of the enterprise, says Steve Eisenbrown, senior vice president of architecture and software, Rockwell Automation.

Adds McNab, "Customers are telling us they want linked reference architectures supporting both the office environment and the factory floor. Both plant and IT managers need secure, real-time visibility between the production floor and enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and supply chain management systems. This network architecture will allow manufacturers to achieve real-time visibility with a secure control network using Ethernet."

To facilitate the integration process, Cisco and Rockwell Automation are both scheduling "best practices" seminars.

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