However, collaboration certainly can fail to meet its potential. At the Plant2004 meeting, Jack DeBrunner, manager of capital projects at Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, cautioned that IT systems set up for broad-based collaboration can stumble when dealing with real-world production environments. He described a recent effort to implement a company-wide document-management system, which would standardize how important records were stored and updated for its global base of plants. "What we overlooked was that many of our plants had developed shortcut approaches to this task that worked well for them, but differed from location to location," he says. However, the efficiency expected in the enterprise-wide system only occurs with a standardized approach. "The key will be to have such information systems equipped with a user interface that can be customized to local 'flavors,' while still having the necessary underlying structure," he says.
Nick Basta is editor at large for Chemical Processing magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.