Skip to Main Content
To meet the demands of short delivery times and custom-designed products, some companies have redesigned their administrative and automation systems to enhance flexibility and enable rapid response. A central part of the redesign process is the integration of the business and production systems, which have traditionally been weakly coupled. However, business and engineering cultures are quite different in the sense that business systems are transaction based and operate primarily on aggregated values in non-real time, while automation systems are event based, operating on engineering process data that are collected, and responded to in real time. Nevertheless, the integration of the business and manufacturing systems can be profitably viewed as a large-scale distributed dynamical control system, in which there is a strong mix of process automation and human operator feedback. To illustrate the benefits of business and manufacturing system integration, the author's experiences over six years with the information technology and automation systems at DanSteel A/S are related. By placing a control engineering team in charge of revamping an enterprise-wide automation and information system, the difficulties encountered were analyzed and solved by taking a control systems overview of the problem. The automation team's interdisciplinary background was a key advantage since it allowed them to model the system concerned, simulate various scenarios and suggest solutions. The result has been specific improvements at DanSteel, including a better understanding of the overall enterprise and knowledge of the benefits of an innovative control view of manufacturing.
Date of Publication: Dec. 2003