Plex Manufacturing Software Connects to Microsoft Office

Plex Manufacturing Software Connects to Microsoft Office

Linking manufacturing software with Microsoft Azure (not so surprising) and Office 365 (huh?) seems to be the new trend.

I wrote previously about GE Predix. People were curious if that was a statement about GE’s cloud. I thought maybe it was about linking to Office. Here is an announcement from Plex with a similar initiative.

[I’ve taken some vacation and am working on at least three intense projects. So my posts have slowed. Hopefully I pick it up soon.]

Here is the news about Plex.

Plex plus Microsoft

Plex Systems has announced an integration with Microsoft Corp. aimed at making it easy for companies to connect Microsoft’s desktop productivity applications to the Plex Manufacturing Cloud. Plex has also leveraged Microsoft’s Azure platform as the foundation for the Plex Developer Portal, the company’s new gateway for customers and partners using Plex’s growing portfolio of REST Application Program Interfaces (APIs).

The integration is part of Plex Connect, the company’s open integration framework that makes it easier for manufacturers to connect people, things and applications to the Plex Manufacturing Cloud.

Plex Connect: Microsoft Office 365

  • The new Plex Workcenter Lookup app is now available on the Microsoft store.
  • The app enables users to connect, view and analyze manufacturing data from Plex in Office 365, making it easier for business users to leverage that data for getting work done in the desktop applications they use every day.
  • Built using Plex Connect REST APIs, the app enables real-time lookups, while maintaining role-based security for customer data.
  • Leveraging Plex’s APIs, customers and partners can also create their own connections and applications to interact with the Plex Manufacturing Cloud in ways that support their unique business objectives.

Plex Connect: Developer Portal

  • Plex also launched the company’s new developer portal, providing customers and partners with secure access to the company’s expanding portfolio of RESTful APIs.
  • Leveraging Microsoft Azure, the Plex Developer Portal takes advantage of the platform’s scalability, tooling and managed services to support Plex customers’ growing requirements for enterprise connectivity.
  • The Plex Developer Portal provides sample code, sandbox capabilities, documentation and other resources to help customers and partners build secure, robust connections between the Plex Manufacturing Cloud and third-party applications.

“Microsoft’s desktop productivity applications are fundamental to business, providing people and teams with flexible tools for running their day-to-day operations,” said Karl Ederle, group vice president, products at Plex Systems. “Our goal with Plex Connect is to make it easy for manufacturers to achieve a completely connected enterprise, with rich data always available to support business and customer objectives, whether through desktop applications or connections to other enterprise systems. The Azure platform is an ideal foundation for Plex Connect as we scale to meet the needs of global manufacturers.”

“Microsoft Office 365 and Plex Manufacturing Cloud are more valuable for our joint customers when we bring them together,” said Rob Howard, director, Office 365 Ecosystem, Microsoft. “The power to quickly pull real-time data from Plex’s manufacturing system of record directly into a tool like Excel enables professionals to use and analyze data in ways that support today’s most dynamic work environments.”

Industrial Automation Open Integration Program Launched

Industrial Automation Open Integration Program Launched

Endress+Hauser Open Integration

Here is an industrial automation announcement from the recent SPS IPC Drives trade fair held annually in Nuremberg, Germany. This one discusses a new open integration, some say interoperability, program based upon open standards.

This blog has now complete eight years—through three names and domains: Gary Mintchell’s Radio Weblog, Gary Mintchell’s Feed Forward, and now The Manufacturing Connection. Through these eight years one consistent theme is advocating for what I believe to be the user’s point of view—open integration.

Users have consistently (although unfortunately not always vocally) expressed the view that, while they love developing a strong partnership with preferred suppliers, they also want to be able to connect products from other suppliers as well as protect themselves by leaving an “out” in case of a problem with the current supplier.

The other position contains two points of view. Suppliers say that if they can control all the integration of parts, then they can provide a stronger and more consistent experience. Customers worry that locking themselves into one supplier will enable it to raise prices and that it will also leave them vulnerable to changes in the supplier’s business.

With that as an introduction, this announcement came my way via Endress+Hauser. That company is a strong measurement and instrumentation player as well as a valued partner of Rockwell Automation’s process business. The announcement concerns the “Open Integration Partner Program.”

I’m a little at a loss to describe exactly what this is—other than a “program.” It’s not an organization. Rather its appearance is that of a memorandum of cooperation.

The program promotes the cooperation between providers of industrial automation systems and fieldbus communication. To date, eight companies have joined the program:
AUMA Riester, HIMA Paul Hildebrandt, Honeywell Process Solutions, Mitsubishi Electric, Pepperl+Fuchs, Rockwell Automation, R. STAHL and Schneider Electric.

“By working closely with our partners, we want to make sure that a relevant selection of products can be easily combined and integrated for common target markets,” outlines Michael Ziesemer, Chief Operating Officer of Endress+Hauser. This is done by using open communication standards such as HART, PROFIBUS, FOUNDATION Fieldbus, EtherNet/IP or PROFINET and open integration standards such as FDT, EDD or FDI. Ziesemer continues: “We are open for more cooperation partners. Every market stakeholder who, like us, consistently relies on open standards is invited to join the Open Integration program.”

Reference topologies are the key

Cooperation starts with what are known as reference topologies, which are worked out jointly by the Open Integration partners. Each reference topology is tailored to the customers’ applications and the field communication technologies used in these applications. “To fill the program with life in terms of content, we are going to target specific customers who might be interested in joining us,” added Ziesemer.

Depending on industrial segment and market, the focus will be on typical requirements such as availability, redundancy or explosion protection, followed by the selection of system components and field instruments of practical relevance. This exact combination will then be tested and documented before it is published as a joint recommendation, giving customers concrete and successfully validated suggestions for automating their plant.

Ziesemer adds: “With this joint validation as part of the Open Integration, we go well beyond the established conformity and interoperability tests that we have carried out for many years with all relevant process control systems.”