HP Updates Enterprise Link; Signals Close Ties to Manufacturing Automation

Fisher Rosemount Systems, Inc.computer manufacturers are striving mightily to sell comprehensive "solutions" in addition to pushing boxes out the door, but only a few have successfully positioned themselves for the specific needs of the factory floor. One of these winners is Hewlett-Packard (Palo Alto, CA), which recently announced a series of product upgrades and new alliances that strengthens its hand in this marketplace.

HP's key product for this positioning is HP Enterprise Link, which has been around in various forms for most of this decade. Originally developed as a tool for integrating laboratory information management systems (LIMS), Enterprise Link addresses a problem that continues to nag process automation schemes: the interface between transaction-based enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs) and the time-sensitive operating systems and software used in factory-floor control. For many plant installations, this interface is a complex, custom-built program. With Enterprise Link, HP provides off-the-shelf integration. Simplified integration enables improved customer service through make-to-order manufacturing, reduced inventory cost and increased efficiency, according to HP. The key target in this middleware software arena is, of course, the R/3 ERP system of SAP (Walldorf, Germany).

HP has released two extensions of Enterprise Link. For manufacturers using SAP R/3 intermediate documents (Idocs), an Idocs extension to HP Enterprise Link's visual-integration tool connects production systems with SAP MM, PP, and SD modules. HP Enterprise Link's Idocs extension, already being used at several sites, expedites plant system transactions such as inventory synchronization, scheduling, warehousing, packaging, and shipping. These data-mapping tools also provide users of the Microsoft SQL Server database and related products, such as Wonderware's (Irvine, CA) Industrial SQL Server, a simple means to visually integrate their data with other plant and ERP applications.

Integration Solutions
Another extension assists in quality management (QM) by integrating lab information-management systems with the SAP QM module. This accelerates raw-material preparation and the inspection and shipping of finished goods, resulting in streamlined supply chains and shortened time-to-cash intervals.

"HP Enterprise Link extends the integration capabilities of ERP systems to the shop floor by weaving intricate real-time data threads that enhance business processes, such as order fulfillment, asset effectiveness and material management," said Gerhard Schmid, marketing manager for HP's Measurement Solutions Division. "Our customers now have a much easier time of standardizing the interaction of processes among diverse production units, regardless of the mix of real-time systems."

HP has also beefed up the suitability of Enterprise Link by forging new alliances with three leading control and integration vendors: Wonderware Corp. (Irvine, CA), a division of Siebe Automation, <%=company%> Performance Solutions Div. (Austin, TX), and Ernst & Young (New York), the integration-consulting firm.

Enterprise/Control Integration, a part of F-R's evolving PlantWeb control architecture, will offer Enterprise Link and OPC (OLE for Process Control) communication objects to exchange information between process automation systems such as <%=company%>'s DeltaV System and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems from SAP, J. D. Edward, and others.

"Enterprise/Control Integration is a core element of our customers' manufacturing strategy," said Jim Nyquist, president of the Performance Solutions Div. "And since the information needed by enterprise decision processes is generated at the plant floor, users are looking to process automation providers like <%=company%> for integration solutions."

Wonderware said it will use HP Enterprise Link to integrate Wonderware FactorySuite 2000 software and SAP R/3. Optional features for HP Enterprise Link provide off-the-shelf integration between Wonderware InBatch software or the Wonderware Industrial SQL Server, and Oracle databases or enterprise systems such as SAP R/3.

"The use of HP Enterprise Link with FactorySuite facilitates the exchange of valuable production information to and from the factory floor and the enterprise," said Joe Cowan, Wonderware vice president of sales and marketing. "HP Enterprise Link will let FactorySuite users exchange real-time and historical information, production orders, recipe information and material-tracking information between plant-floor operations and a variety of business systems."

Wonderware, headquartered in Irvine, CA, is a unit of British-based Siebe plc. The company pioneered the use of Windows-based platforms for developing industrial-automation applications more easily when it introduced InTouch operator interface software in 1989.

Ernst & Young, the systems integration, accounting, and management consulting firm, has offices in most major national and international cities. Its 4,500-consultant systems group plans to deliver value-added consulting, implementation and support services based on HP Enterprise Link.

"Ernst & Young is committed to achieving substantial value for our clients through the integration of manufacturing systems with business processes," said Pat Hurley, principal consultant, Ernst & Young. "One of the critical success factors is knowledge of both the enterprise and plant-floor domains. Using a team approach with HP provides that knowledge and the integration software needed to deliver a fully integrated solution."

HP Enterprise Link, certified by SAP in 1996, uses graphical data mapping, time- and event-based triggering, and store-and-forward fault recovery, to manage operational communications and thereby optimize business processes. The software also now includes a flat-file option, which integrates manufacturing execution-system applications and will link plant systems to ERP packages other than SAP R/3. In addition, a new Web-browser interface gives IT managers a familiar way to monitor message servers in remote plants. HP Enterprise Link for HP-UX and HP Enterprise Link for Windows NT are $38,500 each for a typical data-server configuration with SAP PP-PI and Oracle database options.

By Nick Basta