ERP systems connect to real–time data and transaction data in a variety of ways. These systems are typically configured by systems integrators, who bring unique knowledge on process, equipment, and vendor solutions.
Direct integration—ERP systems connectivity (communications to plant floor equipment) as part of their product offering. This requires the vendors to offer specific support for the plant floor equipment that their customers operate. ERP vendors must be expert in their own products, and connectivity to other vendor products, including competitors.
Database integration—ERP systems connect to plant floor data sources through staging tables in a database. Plant floor systems deposit the necessary information into the database. The ERP system reads the information in the table. The benefit of staging is that ERP vendors do not need to master the complexities of equipment integration. Connectivity becomes the responsibility of the systems integrator.
Enterprise appliance transaction modules (EATM)—These devices communicate directly with plant floor equipment and with the ERP system via methods supported by the ERP system. EATM can employ a staging table, Web Services, or system–specific program interfaces (APIs). The benefit of an EATM is that it offers an off–the–shelf solution.
Custom–integration solutions—Many system integrators offer custom solutions. These systems tend to have the highest level of initial integration cost, and can have a higher long term maintenance and reliability costs. Long term costs can be minimized through careful system testing and thorough documentation. Custom–integrated solutions typically run on workstation or server class computers.
Standard protocols—Communications drivers are available for plant floor equipment and separate products have the ability to log data to staging tables. Standards exist within the industry to support interoperability between software products, the most widely known being OPC