In the manufacturing environment, state-of-the-art information technology can be used as a strategic weapon to gain a competitive edge. The Esprit Shop-Control [l,2] project (EP-5478) was following this path while developing an integrated set of shop floor management tools building on client/server concepts. Client/server systems have the ability to answer the organisations need for cost-effective easy information access, flexibility, smooth systems and network management, reliability, security and faster development of better and more robust applications. Client/server architectures allow the utilisation of existing hardware, software and networks, and respond incrementally, and therefore economically, to future demands on information systems and networks.
State-of-the-art IT tools should be simple to install and use in the factory environment, yet the engineering effort is often too high. A Decision Support System (DSS) supporting Shop-Control installation teams is being developed that will allow some installation automation and provide tools to manage the needed interoperability across different platforms. The DSS supplies a framework for application development, as well as for life cycle support, by providing the developing team with component design and test facilities. Using integration tools with simulation capabilities, the user is able to rebuild in the laboratory the actual site environment, through interface modelling and simulation of already existing software and hardware components. Visualisation and monitoring are applied both on laboratory and on site support, as well as performance evaluation and management tools. On-line component upgrade allowing continuous system operation is also supported by allowing the takeover of application tasks by the application model. This paper describes the developed DSS, its architecture and the principles applied, as well as a practical example dealing with an Alarms Management Server application.