SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR
COMMUNICATING BETWEEN SOFTWARE
APPLICATIONS, PARTICULARLY MES
(MANUFACTURING EXECUTION SYSTEM)
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED
This application is the US National Stage of International Application No. PCT/DE02/04376, filed Nov. 28, 2002 and claims the benefit thereof. The International Application claims the benefits of German application No. 10161064.5 filed Dec. 12, 2001, both of the applications are incorporated by reference herein in their entirety.
FIELD OF INVENTION
The invention relates to a system for communicating between software applications, particularly MES applications, with at least one means of communication, at least one central processing unit for storing the software applications and at least one framework program coupling the software applications together.
The invention also relates to a respective method, a computer program, a computer program product and also a data processing apparatus.
BACKGROUND OF INVENTION
The employment of what are referred to as Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) for automating production and/or manufacturing sequences is known from "Software fur die Automatisierung—Transparenz iiber die Abldufe schaffen", an article by Dirk Kozian in Elektronik fur die Automatisierung 11, Nov. 17, 1999. These systems integrate the automation level (controls) with the ERP systems (ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning) of the enterprise control level. Manufacturing Execution Systems are systems which provide information for optimizing production sequences, for example. In the first place, Manufacturing Execution Systems have to supplement the rough planning data of the ERP systems with plant-specific and up-to-date fine planning data and forward it correspondingly to the lower-placed automation layer; in the second place, they have the task of taking production-related information from the automation level, processing it and reporting it to the enterprise control level. MES systems therefore perform the task of vertical integration between the enterprise control level and the automation level. Typical individual tasks of MES systems comprise Enterprise Asset Management, Maintenance Management, Information Management, Scheduling, Dispatching and Trace & Track. These tasks are carried out by MES components or MES applications in each case.
Due to the software-related and data-related heterogeneity of the MES applications, however, they can only be integrated into a common system or project with very great difficulty and the exchange of data between these applications is only possible with some effort.
The integration of software components into a software system by means of what are referred to as adapters or by means of wrapping (packaging) is known from "Massive Wiederverwendung: Konzepte, Techniken und Organisation", an article by Ulrich Lindner in OBJEKTspektrum January 1996, pages 10-17. The aim in this respect is to increase the reusability of software components.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,557,798 describes a communication interface between software applications over which the applications can communicate with a high level of performance. The aim in this respect is also to be able to develop the 5 applications independently of each other in a modular manner.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,115,646 describes a process automation system based on a heterogeneous distributed software system and an ORB (Object Request Broker). CORBA (Com10 mon Object Request Broker Architecture) is used as the ORB in this respect. The aim of this invention is to make workflow management services available.
SUMMARY OF INVENTION
The problem addressed by the present invention is to provide a system and a method for communicating between software applications, particularly MES applications, which allows the easy integration of heterogeneous applications in
20 particular and the enabling of an efficient exchange of data between them.
The inventors took as their basis the finding that interoperability between heterogeneous software applications (e.g. MES applications) is achieved by the use of a framework
25 program (Framework) using standardized interfaces such as OPC (OLE for Process Control); ActiveX, XML (extensible Markup Language) or SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol). This achieves the principle of'any data, any time, anywhere" for a user in an MES project (a project for
30 solving a task, e.g. order processing within an MES system). In other words, a user has access to all data at all times, irrespective of where it is located in the system. Furthermore, all the objects and data of the applications appear in the framework program in a homogeneous way since the
35 objects or data of the applications are mapped to the object model (corresponding therefore to a uniform homogenous meta object model) of the framework program. This facilitates the establishment and manipulation of a communication link between the applications. A user can project a
40 communication link between applications and does not need to program it laboriously.
A user (e.g. a System Integrator) gains a homogenous view across the overall system and does not need to have any specific (internal) knowledge of the application programs.
45 A first advantageous version of the present invention for a system consists in the communication link being transparent for a user and/or other systems with respect to the underlying means of communication. Due to the independence and transparency of the underlying means of com
50 munication, e.g. HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol), COM (Component Object Model), DCOM (Distributed Component Object Model) or MSMQ (Microsoft Message Queue), with respect to the projected communication link, a user can ignore these means of communication when pro
55 jecting a communication link. Therefore, a user does not need to worry about the implementation details of that means of communication when projecting. Even in the integration or "connection" of the software applications to the framework program (e.g. by means of wrapping or by
60 means of adapters), a user can ignore the underlying means of communication and does not need to know any implementation details of the means of communication.
A further advantageous version of the present invention for a system consists in the mapping to the object model
65 being effected by means of adapters and/or wrapping. Adapter and wrapper technologies are familiar mechanisms in Information Technology for integrating software compo