Connected Enterprise Optimizes Facilities and Supplier Networks

Connected Enterprise Optimizes Facilities and Supplier Networks

This piece was originally published in the June 2016 issue of ei, the magazine of the electroindustry.

Mary K. Burgoon, Market Development Manager, Heavy Industries, Rockwell Automation

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The industrial landscape increasingly encompasses connected enterprises. This approach enables common manufacturing platforms and standardized performance measurements across an entire enterprise. It allows businesses to strategically save time and money, mitigate risk, and capitalize on new opportunities.


Similar to other manufacturers with large product portfolios and global manufacturing presence, Rockwell Automation employs a range of manufacturing processes at its different plants. Each ran its own enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and used custom applications that monitored and analyzed data in different ways, but none talked to each other.

The goal was to establish a fully connected system that could track and swiftly respond to issues that might occur anywhere in the world. Examples include responding to a surge in demand at one facility by ramping up production at another or adjusting to a disruption with one supply network partner by collaborating with another. The company also sought to reduce the number of applications registered through its business process mapping. The wide variation in data and input/output points increased not only the risk of error but also the time needed to understand data.


Manufacturers have been on a decades-long journey to improve decision making using enterprise data. Driven by a standard and open Ethernet network architecture that uses the internet protocol (IP) and boosted by key enhancing technologies such as the Internet of Things, a connected enterprise helps a company evolve and advance that pursuit. It unifies intelligence technology (IT) and operational technology systems, providing new opportunities to access, monitor, and capitalize on operational, business, and transactional data.

Establishing a single global connected system necessitated that the company change its network infrastructure approach. It implemented EtherNet/IP™, a standard and open network infrastructure that enables secure interoperability between corporate IT networks and industrial applications.

The company also replaced the many different ERP systems dispersed at its factories around the world with a single system that could manage multiple systems across all facilities. The standardized system delivers processes and points of reference for consistently measuring performance across all facilities.

In tandem with the new ERP system, the company implemented a manufacturing execution system (MES) to standardize processes across all production sites and an enterprise manufacturing intelligence (EMI) software, which tracks and records data and can help pinpoint production trends.

The combined MES and EMI system brings information from hundreds of applications into one centralized location. It gives workers understandable and actionable information that they can use to make improvements, and it enables real-time analysis of key performance indicators, such as quality, production performance, and workflow management.


The company lowered its total cost of ownership, reducing inventory days from 120 to 82 and capturing 30 percent in annual capital avoidance. It also accelerated time to market, with supply-chain deliveries now up to 96 percent and lead times cut in half. Additionally, the company estimates that it experienced a four- to five-percent annual improvement in productivity.

Funneling data into and out of the ERP system with the MES platform reduced issue resolution times and supported leaner operations. As a result, an improvement in output efficiencies was realized, which is critical to any manufacturer’s profitability. The company passed these benefits on to its customers. On-time delivery increased from 82 percent to 98 percent, and parts-per-million defects were cut in half through improved quality.

The connected enterprise is the new industrial revolution. It offers numerous competitive advantages that will be imperative to manufacturers in the coming years, including uncovering new opportunities for improving global production, supporting sustainability efforts, and increasing agility.

 Ms. Burgoon belongs to the NEMA Safety of Machinery and Smart Grid Strategic Group.

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