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IBM's manufacturing plants offer a valuable test ground for studying plant automation techniques. In looking for ways to improve production processes manufacturing engineers in the company's plants have experimented with many approaches to the structure and design of plantfloor computer systems. The structural solutions have ranged from dedicated stand-alone controllers scattered throughout a plant to large hierarchical networks of general-purpose computers serving an entire factory site. The implementations have included combinations of standard and modified commercially available products as well as completely “homemade” devices and software.
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