Occupational Convergence

Aug. 3, 2008
Did you ever ponder why it is so hard to change someone’s opinion on a subject when the facts have changed such that there is a new reality?

 For example, everyone knows that automation engineers and other plant personnel hate professionals in the information technology (IT) department. And that the feeling is mutual. Right?

Well, I’ve accumulated some personal anecdotal evidence that “the times, they are a’changing.” Series Contributing Editor Terry Costlow uncovered some additional evidence for his articles in this issue that, indeed, there is enhanced cooperation between these two vital disciplines. In fact, they may even be working for the same manager in some cases.

Ethernet is the force driving the occupational convergence. That seemingly ubiquitous network has become so important for connecting the enterprise that companies cannot afford for the two areas not to work together. Ethernet is really the only solid technology for connecting plant-floor information sources to the enterprise resource planning and manufacturing execution systems applications that executives use for decision making. IT people are the networking experts. It’s essential that they be involved with network planning and implementation.

On the other hand, IT people have begun to realize the different needs of manufacturing compared to those of the office. Most critical is the need to keep factory equipment running all the time. So patches and upgrades must be handled differently than those of office personal computers. Executives have figured this out, and manufacturing business systems are the better for it.

Speaking of networking, check out this Webcast on wireless networking for industry: “Connecting and Managing Remote Devices with Wireless Technology” at www.automationworld.com/webcast-4384.

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