Software Becoming the Beating Heart of Manufacturing Plants

REDMOND, Wash. – April 19, 2010 – The last time you purchased a washing machine, a pack of batteries or a pair of shoes, did you think about how they were made? It’s not something that often crosses our minds, but it is interesting to think about manufacturing.

The manufacturing world, just like everything else these days, is changing rapidly. Outside the economic drivers for a more efficient plant, there is a clear evolution in the role of the manufacturer today. They are no longer a stopover in the supply chain as they are becoming innovators, collaborators and partners. This means the focus of manufacturers is all about you — the consumer.

You might think this is obvious, but when you look back even just a few years, manufacturers often just made or processed products then shipped them out. Today, manufacturers are telling us that they need to have agile production lines, to become dynamic and customer-centric companies, and to be able to help their partners cultivate future demand. Microsoft has always worked with manufacturing companies, and now we are a technology partner that is actively helping them change their role in the supply chain and up their game.

Our range of technologies and platforms, especially our embedded platform offerings (including Windows Embedded Standard 7, Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R3 and Windows Embedded Server, among others) are optimized for building flexible industrial solutions. These technologies are geared toward helping manufacturers deliver more choice and value to their customers (and their customers’ customers) while responding to increasing competition from both traditional and new sources.

Our aim is to connect the manufacturing plant floor with the IT environment to drive real-time productivity and efficiency within the business and to facilitate more efficient business relationships for the manufacturer. Windows Embedded supports this connectivity by linking industrial devices, peripherals and servers seamlessly throughout the plant to help ensure high efficiency alongside flawless quality.

Our latest software platform, Windows Embedded Standard 7, is designed to help reduce development costs and decrease time to market for manufacturers. If you combine it with Windows Embedded CE and Windows Embedded Server, you can seamlessly connect the devices driving production processes to the business intelligence network that runs modern plants giving manufacturers the insight they need to make informed decisions that impact their business. We also offer a real-time software solution, Windows Embedded CE platform, that enables manufacturers to run real-time systems, such as actuators, Smart IO, local HMI, PLCs and a wide range of small footprint or rugged devices.

And so, technology has become the beating heart of the manufacturing plant, enabling it to be reconfigured quickly to meet the needs of the market and utilizing one application and development framework with complete product support. Just knowing how manufacturing operations are changing from the inside out through technology adoption and what impact this will have on customer relations and business productivity really shows how IT has become strategic in the eyes of manufacturers, rather than a nice-to-have. And it makes me look at that small pack of batteries with a whole new respect.

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