PeopleSoft and Camstar, Working

By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2002-10-10 Email Print this article Print

Corning's small specialty materials group tries to lead the money-losing glassmaker into the future of manufacturing.


PeopleSoft and Camstar, Working Together?

PeopleSoft and Camstar weren't made to work together, but they both support extensible markup language, or XML, which is the middleware standard for exchanging messages about data. However, the two vendors don't implement the standard in exactly the same way. To translate, Corning uses the BizTalk application integration server from Microsoft. It interprets People- Soft's XML layer, called App Messaging, so that Camstar's XML tool, Live Connect, can understand, and vice versa.

Corning runs most of the new systems on Microsoft Windows NT servers. Factory workers and corporate executives can view all the data via Web browsers. There is just one set of customer specifications, in an Oracle database. Where a business manager used to have to check three different applications to see total order backlog, now it's just one. Another bonus is that when a software update needs to be done, Anderson's staff can load it on the enterprise servers at the data center and propagate it out to the factories. The old setup forced programmers to hand-code different updates for different factories, and to upgrade them locally.

Now a fluoride crystal might be fired at Corning's plant in Canton, N.Y., which last year got a $30 million overhaul in anticipation of high-volume crystal work. If Canton gets overbooked, the crystal could be boxed and sent to a similar factory in North Brookfield, Mass., for final processing. Required testing could be done at a laboratory back in Corning, N.Y. Riding in a slipstream behind the crystal as it moves is all the data associated with the process. "This is not bar coding on a product," says supply-chain expert Beers. "This is one machine telling the other machine what to do."

Three factories now run Camstar Virtual Factory, with a fourth due to go live by year's end. A fifth facility, used for testing and research, is due to be up next year. Anderson declined to say what he has spent on PeopleSoft software. But by using Camstar on the shop floor, the savings so far are significant. If Corning had built software for the fluoride crystal process the same way it had been—by coding everything by hand—it would have cost $3.6 million per factory, he estimates. To put Camstar in each plant, on the other hand, costs about $2.9 million, including computer hardware and technology staff at the factory—a savings of $700,00 per plant. To run a factory remotely from Corning's data center in Corning, N.Y., is even less—$1.3 million.

Money not spent is nice, particularly as Corning fights to get profitable by sometime next year. But more important is that the reorganization of the specialty materials group sets the company up to be a leading supplier of fluoride crystals, the immediate future of semiconductor manufacturing.

Corning's ability to e-mail detailed data to customers as it ships products helps the customers know how they can and can't use the material. Being able to plan for that ahead of time is a distinct advantage in the fluoride crystals market, says Julie Fraser of Industry Directions, a manufacturing-consulting firm. "That will increase customer satisfaction," she says.

The biggest benefit? Flexibility. If a customer changes an order, Corning can respond, even if manufacturing is already under way. The product and what's happening to it are completely traceable. Being known as a company that can do acrobatics during a process as complex as growing fluoride crystals matters a lot. It can mean market share, Anderson says. "If you can't deliver the material customers need, you're out," he says. "You could miss an entire generation of product where they just say, 'Sorry, you couldn't deliver before.'"

Senior Writer
Kim has covered the business of technology for 14 years, doing investigative work and writing about legal issues in the industry, including Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial. She has won numerous awards and has a B.S. degree in journalism from Boston University.

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