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The truly connected enterprise has been a theoretical goal since the days when the first programmable logic controllers hit the factory floor in the 60's and 70's. Connecting all of the data generated as a by-product of factory automation, to the management decision process, has been a real potential since the 80's. But the wall between IT architecture and industrial architecture has been holding back progress on the connected enterprise.
The industrial network architecture is the backbone of the connected enterprise. For this to work, the enabler for connectivity is the Internet Protocol (IP) which provides the pathway for all the disparate nodes to tie together. The rationale behind IP is that it is universal instead of proprietary, which allows the industrial network architecture to encompass all devices and processes in the plant.
In December 2013 through March 2014, Aberdeen surveyed 140 manufacturing companies to understand their approach to operational efficiency and industrial architecture. Aberdeen found that of the Best-in-Class (top 20% according to a defined set of metrics) almost half had gone to a fully homogeneous industrialized Ethernet architecture, compared to about a quarter of other companies. These industry leaders are also leveraging the connected enterprise to improve collaboration through tools such as instant messaging, video chat, remote access and file sharing. Further, they are moving their window into the connected enterprise off the desktop and onto mobile phones and tablets to get information into the hands of decision makers as soon as it is needed.
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