A Suspicious Partnership: Integrating IT with Engineering

Loraine Lawson

Integration is generally focused on systems that are largely within IT's control. But in some companies, they're looking beyond IT integration to integrating engineering systems with IT, both in terms of technology and processes, according to this article from Plant Engineering Live.

 

But first, you have to get these two teams to work together -- and that, as you may have guessed, is really the hard part.

 

It's interesting to read in the article how plant engineers view IT and vice versa. According to the article, IT is often seen as "so tied up in documentation and standards, it cannot take effective action." I particularly got a chuckle at the article's mention that some engineers actually try to hide their computers from IT. Now those are companies where IT has a serious PR problem.

 

One key to IT-engineering convergence seems to be strong, executive leadership, according to a study commissioned by Rockwell Automation. In that study, 90 percent of the more integrated companies indicated senior management promotes change or is somewhat involved. By comparison, 40 percent of the less integrated companies described senior management as "uninvolved in driving change."

 

But there are certainly benefits to integrating the two divisions. You would expect some project efficiencies, such as shorter project time lines and better business continuity. But there's more, according to the article:

Other findings shed insight on the positive impact that convergence is having on various manufacturing processes and programs, including plant-level system security, real-time manufacturing and quality programs such as Six Sigma. A more converged framework also allows teams to better collaborate to assess current manufacturing and IT systems, and begin to set standards for integration, data management and future technology investments.

This article is about plants, but there are plenty of other businesses that would benefit from integration between IT and engineering. City utilities, state transportation departments and engineering firms all spring to mind. If you work in a company with engineers, check it out and see if it doesn't sound familiar -- and if you might be able to realize some of the same gains by integrating the two departments.

 

Assuming you can get them to walk down the hall and speak to each other first. Good luck with that.



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