Open-Architecture Information Integration throughout Organizations

Harry H. Cheng
Integration Engineering Laboratory
Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering
University of California
Davis, CA 95616


An Integration Engineering Laboratory has been developed to study the synergy of open-architecture system integration for agile manufacturing. The URL address on the World Wide Web for the lab is Our new integration environment is used for both operation of agile manufacturing systems and integration of downstream factory-floor manufacturing systems and upstream front-office information systems.


Difficult information integration throughout organizations is one of major barriers to become more agile manufacturers for many industries. The timely flow of information including real-time manufacturing data within and between enterprises is critical to agile manufacturing business. Currently, the costly customized effort is required to implement and integrate information systems that share real-time manufacturing data throughout organizations. Even highly automated plants and factories struggle to overcome difficulties in adapting or reconfiguring production operations to become agile producers.

CH Integration Environment

We have developed a new integration environment called CH for information integration at the enterprise level. CH is not only used for real-time factory-floor operation of equipment and control of processes, but also for non-real-time front-office applications across heterogeneous platforms. Our new integration environment CH can be used for information integration across vendor's product lines. Our new integration environment is computer-platform-independent. CH is a superset of C and implemented as shell of various different operating systems. A large collection of existing C code and utilities can be reused under this new integration paradigm. System integration in CH is accomplished not by writing large programs starting from scratch. Instead, they are combined by relatively small components. These small components concentrate on simple tasks so that they are easy to build, understand, describe, and maintain. Our new integration environment is mechatronic-device-independent. Mechatronic devices such as stepper motors, DC and AC motors, laser and vision sensors, force and torque sensors, tactile sensors, and pneumatic grippers are essential components of many manufacturing systems. The difference of mechatronic components from different vendors is hidden by a set of low-level mechatronic device drivers. Manufacturing systems under the CH integration environment is configurable. For different manufacturing systems, only device drivers, header files, and system-dependent modules need to be modified, but task-level functions and programs remain the same. CH functions and programs are interpretive and modular. They are written in plain text. They can be changed and modified on-line in response to the external sensory information. CH programs can even written in one machine and loaded to other machine for execution remotely through a network. Commonly used sensory data are handled in both low-level and very high-level in CH. Manufacturing systems under the CH integration environment is, therefore, also adaptive. It can automatically adjust to changing conditions and reconfigure themselves. Manufacturing systems operated in CH under real-time operating systems are open. The real-time data in these manufacturing systems can be accessed from different front-office computers such as workstations, X-terminals, and PCs coordinated by CH shell under different operating systems as shown in Figure 1.


This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation as a Research Initiation Award under Grant DMII-9309207, by the University of California, Davis through faculty research grant program and by donations from Datacube, Delta Tau Data Systems, Intel, JR3, Lynx Real-Time Systems, Motorola, Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems, and Unmanned Solutions.

Integration Engineering Laboratory
Created by Harry H. Cheng, 9/15/1995