Ballmer Announces Windows DNA for Manufacturing

Redmond, Wash, February 23, 1999 — Microsoft President Steve Ballmer today announced Windows DNA for Manufacturing, a technical architecture that helps various computer systems in a manufacturing enterprise work together. Windows DNA for Manufacturing acts as common “plumbing” in disparate manufacturing software applications, enabling them to integrate and operate seamlessly. The result is a more efficient exchange of information from the shop floor to ERP processes, equaling reduced operational and technical costs for a manufacturing enterprise.

The myriad steps and processes of building a product often resemble pieces of a puzzle. Supplies must be ordered, machinery must be prepared and tuned, parts must be created and assembled, features and accessories must be added, and the end products must be individually wrapped and sent to storage where they will await distribution.

One of the main challenges involves tracking information throughout the entire process – information about the various materials, parts, machinery, end products, inventory, etc. This is where computer systems play a vital role.

Computer systems can help a manufacturer gather, share and analyze key data elements and information throughout the enterprise in order to make better, more proactive business decisions, become more efficient and reduce operational costs.

However, this is easier said than done. Just like the many parts and materials involved in the creation of a product, there are also various computer systems throughout an enterprise, which typically were never designed to work together. This creates an integration nightmare for manufacturers seeking to develop an efficient technology infrastructure, and can be overwhelmingly costly and time-consuming.

“Integration is a major key to the success of deploying a modern manufacturing system, but piecing the components together to produce such a system is often difficult, time consuming and expensive,” said Ballmer. “We’re striving to make this process easier and more cost-effective for customers by developing this comprehensive new Windows DNA for Manufacturing architecture, which will help combine the Windows platform, various leading line-of-business applications and legacy solutions to create manufacturing-specific Digital Nervous Systems.”

Companies are already reaping the benefits of Windows DNA for Manufacturing. Ocean Spray Cranberries recently standardized on the Windows DNA for Manufacturing architecture in its newest plant in Henderson, Nevada. The company’s new infrastructure has improved the plant’s accuracy and timeliness and has enabled Ocean Spray Cranberries to more effectively identify and analyze process changes.

“Using technologies from Microsoft and [software vendor] Intellution as a standard for our manufacturing and business processes was the only solution that provided Ocean Spray Cranberries with a scalable enterprise-wide architecture,” said Mike Smith, National Manufacturing Systems Manager at Ocean Spray Cranberries. “It allows us to grow our applications within our plant and grow our business globally.”

Windows DNA for Manufacturing is based on the Component Object Model (COM), an underlying software architecture that forms the foundation for higher-level software services, including added system functionality, data transfer and other software interactions. COM is used in more than 150 million systems worldwide and provides the richest set of services and development tools available– helping reduce the cost of creating, deploying and managing business solutions.

“By utilizing the scalable platform provided by Microsoft and Intellution in all aspects of our operations, from the plant floor to business systems, Ocean Spray Cranberries has seen programming development time reduced by 30 to 50 percent,” said Smith. “Because of this distributed architecture and component solutions, we can redeploy programmed objects to gain time and cost savings in other areas of the business, and at other Ocean Spray facilities.”

Ballmer noted that Windows-based systems have experienced tremendous growth in the manufacturing industry. In a preliminary 1998 study, leading industry analyst firm AMR Research estimated that the manufacturing execution systems (MES) market was nearly $300 million, 49 percent of which comes from Windows NT-based products. AMR Research anticipates that over the next several years Microsoft will continue to make advances in the enterprise applications market. By 2002, AMR expects that two-thirds (66 percent) of all ERP shipments, an integral part of the manufacturing process, will be made on Windows NT.

According to AMR Research analyst Jim Shepherd, Windows NT has been gaining momentum in manufacturing plants in recent years. “Windows NT is now the de facto standard for shop floor systems and is becoming a credible ERP alternative to Unix,” Shepherd commented.

Shepherd also agrees with the vision behind Windows DNA for Manufacturing, stating that a simplified way to integrate disparate and distributed applications “is kind of the Holy Grail” for manufacturers.

“You can nearly always find a way to move data back and forth, but it’s a long and painful process to make them interoperate in a meaningful way,” Shepherd said.

Piecing together the manufacturing enterprise puzzle can be long, arduous and costly. Now manufacturers have some much needed technical assistance in the form of Windows DNA for Manufacturing.

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