There is a great feature in Automation World entitled “Marriage Made Where?” about the importance of having IT and automation engineering working together. Carl Henning called it a “must-read for anyone contemplating Industrial Ethernet” on his latest PROFIblog posting. I’d go one step farther and say it is a must-read for anyone contemplating any OPC project. If you consider IT and Control Engineering working together a marriage, then any OPC implementation would be their children. Just like raising kids, if an OPC project doesn’t get acceptance, understanding and support from both ‘parents’ it’s bound to be screwed up somewhere down the line.
The article talks about the benefits of sharing information between groups, data aggregation, and collaborative interaction between engineering, corporate IT and the executive staff. Many times, the technology layer that enables this, is OPC. This collaboration will continue to grow with the adoption of OPC UA, which focuses even more on plant floor-to-enterprise connectivity. So the real message here is to get the most out of your OPC connectivity, make sure you invest in the human communications too. There is a terrific comment in the article from Eric Cosman of Dow on how ‘reaching a state of communication between the plant and executive suite is a journey, not a destination’. Getting that level of understanding between the groups is such an important task, that there are even seminars available to help speed the ‘journey’ along. (you can catch them at the OPCUG as well)
There are a lot of good points to taken away from the paper that apply to OPC projects of any size. Of all the OPC installations I’ve seen, the ones that are most successful and give the most payback, are those that had buy in from both the automation and IT groups. This is particularly true when dealing with asset management and security concerns.