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12 November 2001

E-business in European Manufacturing Discussed in Venice

General Electric (GE) is one of the biggest industrial users of the Internet. It was reported back in 1997 that US$1 billion worth of business a year, with about 1400 of its suppliers, was conducted by GE. This figure exceeded all the business-to-consumer electronic commerce trading undertaken by all businesses at that time.

GE believes that bigger and older is better for e-business and that large well-established companies have a big edge over venture backed on-line start-up companies in the e-business area. GE has set out to prove how a traditional bricks-and-mortar firm with established infrastructures can increase productivity and margins faster than dot-com competitors can build revenues.

The European Commission's contribution towards helping Europe's well established manufacturing companies take advantage of the Internet was the topic of discussion at the recent eBusiness and eWork conference (e-2001), which was held in Venice, October 17-19.

European research and development work in this field is being supported as part of the European Commission's IST Programme, within the domain Key Action II, New Methods of Work and Electronic Commerce. Work undertaken as part of the global Intelligent Manufacturing Systems (IMS) programme, which is also supported in Europe by the European Commission, was also presented at the conference. The IMS projects presented at the conference covered a wide range of issues.

Many enterprises today struggle with the challenge of using the full potential of information and communication technologies for rapid creation of global customer focused, efficient and effective virtual enterprises. A virtual enterprise reference architecture developed as part of an IMS project was discussed. This serves the purpose of providing a common integrating basis for these efforts, recognising the global challenge for common understanding, procedures, and methods.

An IMS project which aims at equipping high-tech or service-oriented companies, especially those with high-information content in their value chains was presented. A dynamic management methodology with modular and integrated methods and tools was discussed. This method deals with the questions of: management of responsiveness and adaptation in a dynamic environment; and management of growth and leveraging of capabilities.

A case study by ABB of seamless production planning and communication in distributed manufacturing was presented to the conference. The work in question addressed switchgear production. The speaker described three integrated prototype applications for supporting seamless production planning, scheduling, and communication in ABB's subcontracting network for switchgear production. The approach was developed and the applications were implemented in the IMS-GNOSIS project.

The final IMS presentation dealt with information management for networked product support. The operation and use of complex products is a challenging task, where the operators and other users, like maintenance personnel, have to simultaneously understand several interacting features. To successfully perform their tasks they are required to have a good knowledge about these interactions and about causes and consequences of operational interventions. A methodology for networked product support was presented to the conference delegates.

The eBusiness and eWork event is the conference for RTD projects in Key Action II of the IST Programme, who are also the primary sponsors of the eBusiness and eWork conference series.


Notes to Editors

The following are a selection of papers relevant to manufacturing industry that were presented at the e-2001 conference. These papers can be found in the published proceedings (see news release dated 29 October 2001).

Existing eBusiness Technology for Manufacturing Companies
Ronald Bürscher, Profactor Produktionsforschungs, Austria
Managing the Virtual Factory: web based scheduling and monitoring
Christian de Sainte Marie, ILOG, France
Information Management for Networked Product Support
Martin Ollus, VTT Automation, Finland
Seamless production planning and communication in distributed manufacturing
Ilkka Seilonen, VTT Automation, Finland
SYMPHONY : On the management of knowledge based adaptive SMEs
Jeroen Kemp, Fraunhofer IAO, Germany
The what and why of a virtual enterprise framework model
Johan Vesterager, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark
e-Industrial Services - Value-Added Service from the socket
Tom-David Graupner, Fraunhofer-Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation, Germany
For further information contact Paul Kidd. (Email: ). Web: