Good point, Beth. That hadn't occurred to me. That certainly means that the plant technology is not foreign to IT.
Another trend that is helping matters is the formation of mixed groups that include members of both IT and control. These groups lead technology adoption and thus the needs of IT and control are both represented throughout the process of add new technology.
As I think Rob pointed out in his article on top automation trends for this year, many of the same technologies that are a force in the enterprise IT world are now a force in the world of the factory automation folks, which makes it easier and more natural for them to "lay down their swords" and collaborate. It can only benefit companies' quest for lean operations to employ technologies that keep the plant floor and the IT systems backbone in sync.
Great article and interesting developments in the industrial controls world. Of course, Ethernet does not require IP. There are other protocols that are appropriate for the shop floor that utilize Ethernet as a transport, such as EtherCAT. By standardizing on Ethernet, organizations can lower their support costs. By designing devices that use Ethernet as the transport, engineers can develop systems that are more flexible. For example, while EtherCAT is great for idustrial contol, there are functions that are better done with IP. If these can be supported on the same device, then the system can become more flexible and more efficient.
Excellent article, Al. For years, a big stumbling block in the progress toward the networked plant has been the cultural differences between IT and the plant controls group -- as you mentioned, The war between the two groups seems to be easing. Sounds like Cisco and Rockwell are helping by serving both groups. I woldn't be surprised if vendors helped broker a peace. Some of the issues are throny. IT can reboot the office computers overnight to load a patch, but they can't do the same with the plant PCs.
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