Companies Opt for Focused Approach to Integration, with Eye on Recovery

Loraine Lawson

Dow Corning has created what it calls the "Holy Grail of automation," a system that integrates the ERP system with the plant floor in an unprecedented way, according to the May Managing Automation Magazine cover story.


Unfortunately, due to the recession, the rollout will be targeted and spread out over years, rather than implemented quickly in all Dow Corning plants. The deployments will target specific products and processes where Dow Corning anticipates the most payback, and each new deployment will depend upon proving the success of past projects.


And really, when you think about it, it might actually be smarter than wholesale enterprise-wide implementations, which can take years to demonstrate an ROI-assuming, they do, in fact, achieve an ROI.


More manufacturers are opting for a more narrowly focused approach to integration, Bob Parker, group vice president at IDC Manufacturing Insights, told the magazine:


"Manufacturers are going back to zero-based budgeting, and anything that's a major, broad, SOA-oriented integration-based project is being delayed. ... Getting through this recession, to a large extent, is about preserving capital, so getting a share of the capital budget for a broad, strategic technology project is going to be tough."


This isn't the first time I've heard about a slowdown in enterprise-wide integration projects, either. During a recent Q&A with Gartner analyst Mary Knox, I learned that even in the financial services sector-where there's an obvious and pressing need for better insight into data-there's a slowdown in new integration projects.


That doesn't mean they're neglecting strategic integration. On the contrary, Knox said Gartner still fields a lot of inquiries about enterprise-wide integration initiatives such as MDM. Likewise, a recent, exclusive Managing Automation reader survey showed that 82 percent of manufacturers report their company's goal is to interconnect enterprise systems with systems operating within the manufacturing plant.


The general feeling, however, seems to be that those projects will happen some day-just not now.


If you're in manufacturing, be sure to check out the entire May issue of Managing Automation Magazine. The cover story looks at how various manufacturers are affected by a lack of integration and how they have or hope to address it.


Don't skip the sidebars, either, which include an excellent integration resource list and an interview with Dennis Brandl, chief consultant at BR&L Consulting. Brandl discusses how real-time data needs are driving integration, the business barriers to integration, the technologies that enable integration, and why he thinks plant-to-enterprise integration will become cheaper and easier in the near future. By the way, don't bother clicking to page two-the whole thing fits on the first page.

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