In the ’60s, noted University of Toronto media professor, Marshall McLuhan, said electronic technology would create a global village. Taking this concept further, Thomas L. Friedman’s 2005 book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, describes how Internet technology is enabling businesses around the world to connect at light speed, creating a paradigm shift in operations.

Continuing the concept of the flat world, lecturers at ARC Advisory Group’s Collaborative Manufacturing Strategies 2007 in Orlando warned manufacturers that a “wait and see” attitude toward taking advantage of a Web-based world would cause them to lose business rapidly to competitors who embrace Web technologies.

But to connect on a global scale, processors will need to do a little homework-for example, start connecting all the machines in their plant. According to OMAC (Open Modular Architecture Controls,, 60% of all packaging lines have not yet been networked, two-thirds of packaging lines have no reliability data collection, only 7% tie into ERP systems and most processors still use ladder-logic programming.

Rick Van Dyke, Frito Lay Div. group manager Controls & MES systems, listed some of the benefits and measurable results in connecting lines via plant networks. In most plants today, machines are still individually controlled, but when connected, complete lines come under touch-screen control. Frito Lay has seen overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) increase from 50-60% to 80-90% while increasing capacity utilization from 30-40% to 70-80%. It reduced inventory from more than 15 days to less than ten days. Connected systems allow a processor to obtain operational excellence through effective continuous improvement.

Key to making this connectivity work, says Van Dyke, is to get involved with industry-based organizations that promote open standards. Some of these include OMAC, ISA (S95 and S88 groups), World Batch Forum (WBF) and OPC Foundation.