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Technologies Of The Year -- Integrating Factory Data

Nov. 10, 2006
FactoryTalk converts factory data to business knowledge.

Rockwell Software's premise for FactoryTalk is that data integration is a critical production-floor issue -- an issue that offers substantial competitive benefits. "With increased demands on manufacturers to improve quality, reduce costs, increase productivity and meet regulatory compliance, the integration of the factory floor with information systems is no longer a luxury -- it's a strategic imperative," says Kevin Roach, vice president of Milwaukee-based Rockwell Software, a division of Rockwell Automation.

Analysts say competitive success derives from data integration's ability to enable factory optimization. For example, a study by the Aberdeen Group lists the absence of data integration as the primary cause of failed factory optimization efforts.

Integrating factory data also has significant enterprise implications. Without data integration, management must contend with multiple point solutions, interfaces everywhere, no easy upgrade path and worse, no single version of the truth, says Rockwell Software's Matthew Bauer, director of commercial marketing.

FactoryTalk evolved from Rockwell's decision to expand its plantwide information software by extending its manufacturing execution system offerings, deploying a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and bringing together the company's software product offerings into a single integrated suite.

FactoryTalk applications leverage FactoryTalk's SOA -- a common set of software services that include security, diagnostics, auditing, data model, licensing, real-time data, historic data, configuration, and alarms and events. Also included: tight integration with the company's Logix control platform, as well as extensive connectivity to third-party and legacy systems.

With SOA, FactoryTalk provides users with a common set of software services that span an entire manufacturing application. That simplifies the user's experience by eliminating the need to write and test services multiple times for each application.

The software suite embraces multiple production disciplines that correspond with common manufacturing activities, including a framework for integration of plant-floor data with business systems. FactoryTalk disciplines, whether used individually or in combination with each other, leverage the knowledge-based infrastructure inherent in the SOA. The result, says Bauer, is more efficient data sharing, easier integration and faster startup.

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