'Collaborative production system' a unifying plant floor strategy: ARC

The ARC Advisory Group's new Collaborative Production System model, unveiled at GE Fanuc's Discover 2007 user group event in St. Louis in October, pushes the manufacturing world closer to a unified strategy that enables disparate plant floor systems to talk to each other.


The ARC Advisory Group's new Collaborative Production System model, unveiled at GE Fanuc's Discover 2007 user group event in St. Louis in October, pushes the manufacturing world closer to a unified strategy that enables disparate plant floor systems to talk to each other.

“Barriers to information still exist between automation systems and operations management and enterprise systems,” the ARC report noted. “End users are faced with such issues as preserving capital assets and extending their life, increasing asset utilization, maximizing operational effectiveness, reducing fixed costs, minimizing variable costs and empowering their workers to make it all happen.”

The Collaborative Production System model is designed to take past ARC strategies and synthesize them to a more unified process. It works to make sure production system information is being maximized in an effort to make the right decision at the right time on the manufacturing floor.

“Collaborative Production Systems prevent assets from being niche islands of information, and ensure that all assets are delivering their maximum return on investment to the manufacturers and their shareholders,” said Craig Resnick, research director for ARC Advisory Group.

Resnick noted the benefits extend beyond machines talking to each other. “Collaborative Production Systems also eliminate manufacturers' internal barriers that may exist between, for example, plant floor and IT personnel,” he said.

The model is designed to help improve asset and equipment reliability and delivery of accurate information. In turn, that should help workers focus on assets that need attention and deliver better performance. The goal is an enterprise-wide system of KPIs that link overall productivity across all aspects of the organization.

GE Fanuc officials embraced the Collaborative Production System model and noted they've been working on products and solutions to address the kinds of barriers cited in the ARC report.

“There are aging systems out there that are nearing their end of life,” said Steve Ryan, director of GE Fanuc's Proficy Process Systems business. “And the people who knew how to run and operate those systems are retiring. There is a need to update systems that can be managed and maintained by the new workforce and to take businesses successfully forward for the next 10 to 15 years.

“It's no longer very effective to update or maintain a single controller at a time,” Ryan added. “By and large, businesses are looking to tie their control systems into their business information systems, but to do so intelligently. The CPS model can help them define their path to success.”

“CPS recognizes that a comprehensive portfolio is not enough,” said Sheila Kester, GE Fanuc director of production management solutions. “It recognizes that focusing on business problems is not enough. It is about delivering results and recognizing it is a collaborative world with many facets and functions. The traditional walls and boundaries that have existed between systems and between functions are coming down or blurring, and the result is all about improving our customers' operational excellence.”

CPS also acknowledges that manufacturing companies face multiple challenges from the “flattening” of the world, according to ARC. Companies are shifting their focus to flexible customer-centric manufacturing that can deal with demand fluctuations. Flat world drivers demand manufacturing excellence, which places greater pressure on these companies to achieve operational excellence.

“ARC is a strong advocate of manufacturers adopting solutions that subscribe to the CPS model,” said ARC's Resnick, “which will go a long way to removing the barriers between Operations Management and Automation Control.”

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