Challenges of horizontal integration in connected manufacturing

Challenges of horizontal integration in connected manufacturing


IoT, Industrial Internet, Industry 4.0. Consumer marketing of IoT technology can be confusing and try to sell yout the idea how your fridge will use smart egg tray to save you from urgent errand to a nearby dragstore. What is really behind that is a very disruptive idea of how manufacturing companies can leverage connectivity to support highly flexible production, integration of clients and partners and combining engineering, manufacturing and services into single connected ecosystem.

According to Garner Hype Cycle, IoT  is currently at the peak of inflated expectations. To me, it is a perfect time to discuss a distance between disruptive future and realities of enterprise manufacturing companies.

My yesterday article Global visibility and pseudo connected manufacturing can give you some idea about potential level of problems companies might experience when they will start moving from siloed enterprise reality towards connected information value chain. Existing enterprise systems never been designed to support global manufacturing environment.

My attention was caught my The Manufacturer article speaks about Hewlett-Packard Enterprise solutions for connected manufacturing. Here is an interesting passage:

But inevitable problems arise with the sheer amount of data that must be sent off-site, while network latency and bandwidth issues mean the information that comes back is not necessarily of 100% use. If a critical part is failing, the operator needs instant knowledge and control.

At a plant level, there is so much data being collected from a multiplicity of IIoT connected devices on different platforms and talking different languages that a kind of digital Babel evolves. Again, data is no good unless it can be turned immediately into information.

And at the network level where manufacturers in the same supply chain network are expected to talk to each other, more concerns rear their head. What happens if proprietary IP-related data is somehow mixed in with operational data? How can it be kept separate? Are we opening a backdoor into our systems?

The following picture can give you an idea about the scenario for horizontal collaboration. You can get more details here. I captured the following picture that can clear demonstrate you the demand to integrated multiple companies into a single ecosystem.


My hunch that HPE is following the vision of “Infonomics”  for systems for collecting data and connecting it into valuable information assets.

Infonomics is the theory, study and discipline of asserting economic significance to information. It provides the framework for businesses to measure, manage and monetize information as a real asset. Infonomics endeavors to apply both economic and asset management principles and practices to the valuation, handling and deployment of information assets.

I found HPE blog article by Martin Rainer about Connected Manufacturing. Here is a visionary chart how everything will be connected together. The benefits of connected manufacturing are obvious. However, how it will work in practice?


In practice, it means that existing engineering and manufacturing systems will be required to share data and collaborate on a complete different scale from what we’ve seen before. The old story of PLM-ERP integration that usually was solved by service provider combining spreadsheets, scripts and custom application might not work anymore. The demand to share data and communicate will be overwhelming and existing system will not sustain that.

What is my conclusion? Existing enterprise system providers (PLM, ERP) are going to face a significant pressure to support horizontal integration scenarios. Existing data is a backbone of all highly valuable IIoT scenarios. The benefits of connected manufacturing, industrial internet and related discipline will not come without solving a practical problems of existing system integration and data sharing. While all PLM vendors are interested in IoT and IIoT these days, the speed of PLM platform changes might not be aligned with market and industry demand. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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