I saw this enterprise software news item on GigaOM recently. “News emerged this morning that Avon Products is scrapping a planned roll out of an SAP order management system and taking a charge of $100 million to $125 million. This should remind all of us that while everyone talks about the consumerization of IT, and while we understand the need to make our mission-critical applications as easy to use as iPhone apps, that’s a very tough job. After all, enterprise-resource planning (ERP) software — or in this case, order management — is not for the faint of heart. Avon Products disclosed the charges associated with the failed roll out in an 8K filing with the SEC.”
Most of have witnessed casualties of ERP implementations. I have no experience implementing those applications, but I did work on a precursor of MES receiving some very good training from IBM in the process.
There are things I have learned from experience, observation and listening to those who have been there (both supplier side and client side).
IBM taught that the client must understand their systems and have solid procedures in place before implementing a big system. I’ve recently held an in-depth conversation with an experienced MES implementer and he as much as said the same thing. If you don’t understand where you are, implementing a big system is doomed.
Another thing to understand that most of these huge enterprise operations management software system implementations require clients to change their business processes to conform to the vision of the software developers. There exist a cadre of large integration companies ready and willing (for a rather large price) to help you install the system and then learn how to conform to it.
CIOs may understand much of this. But what of other executives? If their knowledge of software is traced to consumer apps, no wonder they have no patience for all the upfront work needed to make things work.
The story quoted above went on to talk about all the finger-pointing about blame when the project went south. Been there, done that, have the closet full of T-shirts to prove it.
Let’s just go back to step one. Every engineer knows that preparation and understanding before implementing is essential. Yet, few of us really take that time in the rush to performance. I bet it’s in the way the project was sold–both by the supplier, but also then to management.
Think that it’ll ever change?
Not a blockbuster, but a very interesting acquisition that consolidates another part of the HMI/SCADA product category. Invensys has acquired InduSoft, a provider of HMI and embedded intelligent device software for the automation market. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, and founded in 1997, InduSoft has delivered more than 250,000 HMI software licenses to more than 700 customers worldwide, primarily industrial computer manufacturers and machine and system builders, who embed InduSoft’s software into their products.
“The acquisition of InduSoft represents the continuing execution of our strategy to strengthen our portfolio through inorganic means, enabling us to target additional segments across our portfolio,” said Ravi Gopinath, president of Invensys’ software business. “InduSoft strengthens and broadens our leading software solutions portfolio, particularly in the embedded HMI segment, and provides a continuing driver for growth. They have a proven and experienced team who we are very happy to welcome to Invensys.”
“Combined with Invensys’ existing software offerings, our capabilities and expertise in the OEM and machine-building segments allow us to provide a broader, end-to-end HMI, SCADA and MES solution to our customers,” said Marcia Gadbois, president of InduSoft. “Together, our software tools will make it easier for them to integrate their information and automation systems. They will continue to work with the same strong InduSoft team, and we will ensure they continue to receive the exceptional products and service they have come to expect from us. But now they will be backed by a company with global capabilities and an excellent worldwide reputation for providing industry-leading HMI, SCADA, historian and advanced applications such as MES software and solutions.”
“With InduSoft we can now offer everything from basic embedded HMI devices to manufacturing operations, asset management and ERP integration,” said Norm Thorlakson, vice president, HMI and supervisory software and solutions, Invensys. “InduSoft technology quickly makes us more competitive and gives us immediate entry to new customers and a stronger OEM sales channel, with a focus on machine builders and embedded systems. We are confident it will make us much more attractive. Wonderware users will now be able buy industrial devices, machines and computers with InduSoft software, while companies that are using InduSoft software will be able to expand their solutions with Wonderware supervisory, historian and manufacturing operations management software.”
InduSoft will continue to be managed by its existing executive team, adding employees to Invensys operations in the United States, Brazil and Germany.
I have been on vacation and took a break. Don’t know if it was deserved, but it was needed. This has been an eventful year for me. First, with new leadership coming to Automation World, it was time to leave. Ten years is a long time to do the same thing. Then, I started this Website. Needed to generate some income. But a consulting gig turned into employment.
Beginning this month, I am both running The Manufacturing Connection and also Executive Director of Applied Technology Publications. There, I am reuniting with my AW partner Glen Gudino. ATP publishes Maintenance Technology magazine and runs the MARTS conference.
We will be guiding that organization and the publication and events into filling a much needed niche that encompasses maintenance (asset availability) but also expands it by looking at the relationship of asset availability and asset utilization as they point toward the real goal of a maintained asset utility state–throughput rather than just uptime. No one takes the holistic view that I intend to bring–taking the conversation into the direction of plant performance and profitability.
MESA International is sponsoring a Webcast that is live tomorrow at 11 am EDT. “Cyber Security beyond anti-virus – How to Keep your MOM Software and Application Servers More Secure” is the title.
Securing MOM (Manufacturing Operations Management) software and application servers from hackers and potential malware threats continues to be a concern. Attend this Webcast to learn steps you can take for effective security beyond just installing anti-virus software and patching systems. We will discuss techniques to protect your critical systems including application whitelisting, use of Microsoft Windows Core operating system components, limiting software and user access to least required privileges, and more.
Microsoft became the dominant software platform for automation and operations management by the late 1990s to the early 2000s. Most companies have staked their product development to it. Wonderware took a giant risk when it based its startup product on a Microsoft Windows product that was not generally accepted at the time.
Many companies have people embedded in Redmond. Some visit regularly. These include the likes of Beckhoff Automation, GE-IP, Iconics, Rockwell and Siemens. Even the process control systems suppliers moved to a Microsoft platform. This became evident early in OPC UA development when things were not going as well as some would hope and there was a little kerfluffle about developing OPC UA for a .Net environment. Since patched over.
At the ARC Industry Forum in 1998, there seemed to be a viable Java alternative (the Java people always seemed to think that it was an operating system, not programming software). At the 1999 Forum, many (I forget how many) speakers from the various automation suppliers spoke on developing on Microsoft Windows. Only the guy from Sun (remember it?) got up to speak on Java. The battle was over. Even the OMAC group at the time had a Microsoft Manufacturing User Group.
My, the world has changed. Microsoft still has a massive presence. But much of the world is going mobile. Microsoft missed it entirely. Now Steve Ballmer is out. What is the future of Microsoft? Should it split into “consumer” and “enterprise” as some suggest? But with the consumerization of IT, would that be a mistake?
What about you? What are you using these days? Very much from Microsoft?
I still use Microsoft products. But I’m typing this on a MacBook Pro on a minimalist text editor called Write Room. I’ll cut and paste it into my Web application on Firefox. (I use Chrome sometimes, too.)
What do you think about the future of Microsoft and what products do you think you’ll be using?
Meanwhile, here is Wonderware extending its product portfolio even deeper into mobile. Mobile and cloud-based applications and storage are going to be hugely disruptive to the operations management software space. Wonderware is in front of the trend right now. I hope the new owners let it keep it up.
<h4>Wonderware Extends InTouch To Mobile Devices</h4>
Invensys has released its Wonderware InTouch Access Anywhere software. Users can now access plant-floor data via Wonderware InTouch software. It runs inside a web browser so users can connect to other InTouch applications at anytime from anywhere, using any mobile device. The software also supports Macintosh and Linux-based computer systems, as well as Microsoft Windows PCs and laptops. And because users are not required to install any software on their mobile device, the offering is remarkably easy to deploy, manage and maintain.
Tim Sowell, Invensys Fellow and VP of System Strategy at Invensys in the Common Architecture team in R&D, writes the Operations Management Systems Evolution blog on the Invensys blog site. He offers thoughtful pieces about where operations management software and practice could be going.
In his latest post, he talks about a dinner conversation with people in the industry and what his companions thought were the most important transformations occurring now.
I’d have to agree with them. People who talk to me echo much the same. Check out his blog page for the complete details, but here’s a teaser.
Agility to adjust to market conditions and change
The clear common requirement was the end to end operational alignment, understanding across the value chain. This holistic operational control, was a significant change in all three industries the sites had run with independence, in all cases the expectation was that site / regional uniqueness will be maintained but now alignment and traceability of action, product across the total value chain, e.g.| multiple assets/sites. A fascinating discussion here was both water and food talked that they expect this end to end to include outsourced assets that make up the chain, and effect the quality of the product or service that their brand is delivering. This is why it is the ability to federate assets and systems while still allowing site uniqueness is key. The inclusion of non company assets in the value chain and requiring operational traceability, accountability and agility to change are just around the corner.
The operational workforce transformation
Operational role retention / rotation. The impact of the operational culture, approach with gen Y and more holistic operations. These have covered extensively in the blogs, but is the area both of my dinner companions spent over 50% of dinner time.
The key areas are:
- The knowledge transfer from the retiring generation and how is the captured.
- The highest critical concern is the fact they are already seeing people in roles for much less time, and this is across the operational roles. So the issue is how to embedded and design the experiences to enable to become effective dramatically faster, e.g., 20% of the time today. Our conversation went away from industrial operational systems, to commercial systems, such as Facebook, banks, mobile phone applications. The key here is these applications are being delivered to market without having to train the users, they have intuitive experience that leads users through the steps. Agreement that this is a paradigm shift in operational design, from today’s approach where user interface is thought of well after the control, and we have engineers who are not human in factor people, designing the systems. All attendees said we need to continue this discussion, as this is not just control rooms, but reports, and information etc.
New Product Introduction
The life time of products and services is dramatically reducing, and the companies stated that seem to have ever change and introduction of new products and services. The move is to individual products and services for each consumer. How do we introduce, absorb these new products and services to the operational systems that will deliver them in a timely manner without significant error.
This could be considered agility, but both wanted this pointed out separately as it is a real dynamic that effecting them, vs the infrastructure and assets that are also changing and must absorb agility of change. An intriguing point here was that they commented that operational system and automation system absorb new product introductions without change, but all commented on the challenge of new assets with existing systems requiring federation into the system, and how do introduce new products procedures to operational staff. So the discussion for new product introduction was not just for systems, but also for people to execute, how can they take the new product from the PLM system, and deliver the control, and instructions, across many sites with different systems, and different cultures.
What do you think about all this? What would you add? Let me know.