Study: IT / controls engineering convergence shows progress

Manufacturing companies are making progress with a convergence of their information technology (IT) and controls engineering organizations, and the ones well along the path are realizing major benefits.


Manufacturing companies are making progress with a convergence of their information technology (IT) and controls engineering organizations, and the ones well along the path are realizing major benefits. This is the conclusion of a study released by Rockwell Automation in November 2007. Benefits include higher efficiency, increased reliability, shorter project timelines, and better business continuity.

Responses from more than 300 control engineers and IT professionals representing a cross-section of manufacturing industries showed those companies with more integration between functions experience less conflict and are more optimistic about the future of convergence.

“These findings confirm many of the performance advantages that we had long suspected come from stronger collaboration between IT and controls departments, and we’ve uncovered a few new ones as well,” said Kevin Roach, vice president of software, Rockwell Automation. The study identified management involvement as the most effective driver of convergence. In more integrated companies, 90% of respondents indicated that senior management is “promoting change” or is “somewhat involved.” In companies where IT and control engineering is less integrated, 40% described senior management as “uninvolved in driving change.”

Those with IT responsibilities tended to be more aggressive toward seeking and initiating progress toward convergence. This correlates with differences in how the groups evaluated the advantages, with 67% of IT respondents indicating that convergence had more advantages than disadvantages, compared to 39% of control engineers.

Unexpected benefits
The survey revealed unexpected benefits of convergence, including improved security, improved visibility across multiple plants, improved disaster recovery, and reduced system complexity due to improved designs. Other findings targeted the positive impact that convergence has on manufacturing processes, and programs. Initiatives where convergence showed the most impact were information and Internet protocol availability and security, lean manufacturing or lean enterprise, real-time manufacturing, and total quality programs like Six Sigma.
“Just as manufacturers realize the strategic importance of integrated information, many are now beginning to realize the need to create an integrated environment where plant-floor and IT functions are managed in a collaborative, synchronized manner,” Roach added. “This converged framework allows teams to collaborate better to assess current manufacturing and IT systems, and begin to set standards for integration, data management and future technology investments.”

The objective of the study was to gain insight into convergence trends and identify barriers and best practices. The results support recommendations outlined in a whitepaper commissioned this year by Rockwell Automation authored by analyst firm Industry Directions and consultant firm Systems Innovation Management. A summary of the study’s key findings titled, “Come Together: IT-Engineering-Manufacturing Convergence Furthers Success” is available. It presents conclusions from a series of in-depth interviews conducted with manufacturing and IT professionals earlier in the year.

Rockwell Automation offers :

-- Renee Robbins , Control Engineering News Desk
( Register here and scroll down to select your choice of eNewsletters free .)

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
2015 Mid-Year Report: Manufacturing's newest tool: In a digital age, digits will play a key role in the plant of the future; Ethernet certification; Mitigate harmonics; World class maintenance
2015 Lubrication Guide: Green and gold in lubrication: Environmentally friendly fluids and sealing systems offer a new perspective
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Cyber security attack: The threat is real; Hacking O&G control systems: Understanding the cyber risk; The active cyber defense cycle
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths
New industrial buildings: Greener, cleaner, leaner; New building designs for industry; Take a new look at absorption cooling; Offshored jobs start to come back

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.