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Trial Validates OPC As For CNC/ERP Integration

The Open Modular Architecture Control User Group’s (OMAC, Human-Machine Interface (HMI) Working Group has finished a trial application at Boeing using OPC as the integration technology to connect a computer numeric control (CNC) machine’s data to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) application. OPC is an industry standard for open connectivity.

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The Working Group organized a joint project among OMAC HMI members The Boeing Co. (, the Chicago-based aerospace manufacturer; Okuma Corp. (, a Japan-based CNC and machining technology provider; and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, to evaluate that integration and determine if part accountability could be achieved with minimal integration efforts.

The project team’s goal for this trial was to examine the effectiveness of an Okuma personal computer (PC)-based controller in collecting cycle times, set-up and job times, part quantities and other vital information on machine and job performance to minimize data entry requirements for machine operators, and to provide real-time parts cost accounting to an ERP accounting subsystem. The trial was performed on manufacturing of Boeing 737 Leading Edge (LE) Panels.

“Overall, we successfully achieved most of our goal of a ‘touch’ to ‘non-touch’ operation,” said OMAC Chairman Sid Venkatesh of Boeing. “We were able to replace the tedious data entry process required of the machine operators with a more automated approach. We were also able to validate that CNC-ERP connectivity was possible, simple and cost-effective once the details of interaction between the shop floor and the scrap reorder system were established.”

Okuma exposed the necessary data from the Okuma Thinc control standard application programming interface (API) in an OPC wrapper. Boeing and NIST were able to complete the project with no additional assistance from Okuma.

The project team plans to continue refining the application to demonstrate the efficiencies associated with Lean Manufacturing—targeting improvements in inventory control that would equate to cost savings.

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