Thursday, February 8, 2024

Developing a Phased Integration Approach - Part 5

Developing a Phased Integration Approach

By Harneet Gill, MESA Marketing Committee Chair, Rockwell Automation

The integration of SCADA, ERP, MES, QMS, and IIoT into a seamless operational framework is a key step toward realizing the full potential of Industry 4.0. For manufacturers embarking on this integration journey, a step-by-step strategy is crucial to ensure a smooth transition to full-scale automation.

A Structured Approach

Step 1: Establish a Cross-Functional Steering Committee 

Begin by forming a team that includes stakeholders from all levels and departments. This committee will guide the integration strategy, ensure alignment with business objectives, and oversee the execution of the integration plan.

Step 2: Define and Map Out Critical Data Points Identify the types of data that are critical to your operations

  • Production data from automation and control system and HMI/SCADA systems.
  • Operational data from MES.
  • Quality data from QMS.
  • Resource and financial data from ERP.
  • Data generated by IIoT devices.

Understand how this data flows within your processes and where it originates.

Step 3: Assess Current State of Systems and Infrastructure 

Conduct a thorough assessment of your existing systems. Document the capabilities, limitations, and interconnectivity of current automation and control systems, HMI/SCADA, ERP, MES, QMS, and IIoT systems.

Step 4: Develop a Data Integration Plan Based on the critical data points and current system assessments

  • Data governance policies.
  • A data integration framework.
  • Required infrastructure upgrades or acquisitions.
  • Data sharing and data flow diagrams.

Step 5: Prioritize Integration Points 

Not all systems need to be integrated at once. Prioritize integration based on impact on operational efficiency, data value, and ease of integration. Start with systems that share the most overlapping data points or those that drive the most value when connected.

Step 6: Pilot Integration Projects 

Select a small scale, a high-impact project as a pilot. This could be the integration of MES data into the HMI/SCADA system for improved process control or feeding production data from HMI/SCADA into the ERP for better resource planning.

Step 7: Standardize and Implement Data Exchange Protocols 

Choose industry-standard protocols (such as OPC UA, MQTT, etc.) for data exchange to facilitate interoperability. Ensure all systems can communicate using these standards.

Step 8: Develop or Procure Integration Solutions 

Based on the integration plan, either develop in-house middleware or procure third-party solutions that can act as an integration layer between different systems.

Step 9: Execute Integration and Test 

Roll out the integration based on the pilot project. Conduct thorough testing for data accuracy, latency, and system reliability.

Step 10: Scale and Iterate 

After successful pilot testing, scale the integration to include additional systems. Continuously gather feedback and refine the process.

Step 11: Train and Support Your Workforce 

Invest in training programs to upskill your workforce to handle new systems and processes. Support them with the necessary resources to adapt to the integrated environment.

Step 12: Monitor, Optimize, and Automate 

With the integrated systems in place, continuously monitor performance. Use the data collected to optimize processes and implement further automation.

Step 13: Pursue Continuous Improvement 

Make use of advanced analytics, AI, and machine learning to glean deeper insights from integrated data. Foster a culture of continuous improvement, where data-driven decision-making becomes the norm.


In this blog series we’ve looked at:

  • Analyzing your current state
  • Understanding the communications landscape
  • Establishing a common language
  • The role of Edge computing
  • Data mapping
  • Ensuring real time data flow
  • Feedback loops
  • Middleware
  • Cloud platforms

That’s a lot to cover in a few short blogs and I’m sure I haven’t covered these in any kind of depth. Yet I hope that these few blogs have given you some insight into the world of shop floor systems and data integration. 

I’ve saved probably the most important blog for the last – developing a phased approach. All projects involving shop floor systems, MES, ERP, and QMS are challenging. There’s just so much there – so much data, so many functions, so many different levels of requirements – that’s no matter how you approach it, it’s always extremely challenging. But using a phased approach and applying some basic common sense can help you get the challenges under control and help you in the end to achieve a truly successful project.

I hope you’ve liked this series of blog posts. If you’d like more information on anything, please contact me through MESA International (

No comments: