Laying the Groundwork: Current State Analysis & Understanding the Communication Landscape
By Harneet Gill, MESA Marketing Committee Chair, Rockwell Automation
In the modern manufacturing landscape, the synergy between shop floor operations and enterprise systems is the linchpin of a truly connected, intelligent production environment. At the foundation of this ecosystem, automation and control systems gather the vital signs of the manufacturing processes, but their true potential is harnessed only when this data informs the broader organizational objectives facilitated by ERP and MES.
Achieving this level of integration is not without its challenges, requiring a robust framework and adherence to industry best practices. In this blog post, we'll cover the blueprint and strategy for assessing your current state and building fundamental knowledge to streamline communication between automation and control systems and enterprise business systems.
- Inventory Hardware: Detail all automation and control system hardware, including PLCs, DCSes, HMI/SCADA, sensors, controllers, and communication infrastructure.
- Document Software: Record automation and control system software versions, ERP, MES, QMS, and other enterprise business systems, databases, and any legacy or third-party applications in use.
- Network Topology: Create a detailed map of how devices and systems are interconnected and communicate.
- Determine how data currently flows through your systems, from acquisition at the edge to storage and display.
- Assess current data storage capacities, retrieval speeds, backup solutions, and impending scalability issues.
- Examine the structure of the data generated by the automation and control systems.
- Compare this to the input requirements of ERP, MES, QMS, and other enterprise business systems to identify potential incompatibilities or transformation needs.
- Document the communication protocols currently in use (e.g., Modbus, Profibus, OPC UA, etc.).
- Understand any limitations or incompatibilities these protocols might pose for broader system integration.
- Analyze the data processing capabilities to handle increased data flows post-integration.
- Review maintenance logs and downtime incidents.
- Conduct a vulnerability assessment to gauge system health, identify potential points of failure, and understand current system resilience.
- Assess vulnerabilities associated with internal and external networks, integrations, and interfaces.
- Review any vulnerabilities associated with specific automation and controls software applications.
- Understand the current state of data accuracy, data integrity, and data access and vulnerability.
- High granularity and frequency
- Often time-stamped and sequential
- Can be structured or unstructured
- Predominantly operational rather than financial or business-oriented
- Rapid and reliable transmission methods
- Local processing to reduce latency
- Initial filtering and aggregation to reduce noise
- Edge computing resources for preliminary analytics
- Aggregated and contextualized
- Correlated with production orders, schedules, and resource status
- Used for in-process tracking, WIP (Work in Progress) monitoring, and operations scheduling
- Protocols that support structured data formats (e.g., XML, JSON)
- Middleware that can orchestrate data flow and transformations
- Systems that enable data visualization for operational oversight
- Highly processed and summarized
- Integrated with financial, HR, and supply chain data
- Oriented towards business outcomes, efficiency, and profitability
- Secure and reliable data transfer protocols for inter-system communication
- Data mapping to ensure compatibility with financial and business modules
- Scheduled batch processing to align with business cycles and reporting needs