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Make your data network work for you.

As the economy in the United States emerges from the current recession , there will be a revitalized move for information systems and telecomm organizations to initiate new programs that improve company profits.

Two firms--Navistar and Comdisco--both depend on data communications for their survival.

Navistar's plant

Each working day about 350 trucks roll off the assembly lines at Navistar International Transportation Corporation's manufacturing complex in Springfield, Ohio.

For many years the company depended on a baseband network, concentrated in only the high density areas of the plant, for its internal data communications.

When the growing complexities of automation made it necessary to improve the system, the company realized that their new network had to fulfill several key requirements. Among them, the body plant, assembly facilities and the paint shop required 100% connectivity.

High information handling capacity was required throughout the network, and the network had to provide access to isolated areas of the plant. Also, information carried by the network had to be made available to key assembly line workers.

The role envisaged for the network by Navistar was also a major consideration. It had to be capable of handling and managing the kinds of data necessary to link engineering, management and plant floor work groups in an enterprise-wide environment.

New manufacturing applications are being brought on-line continuously by the company.

"Our goal with this network is to give the assembly workers on the line--the people who actually build our trucks--access to all of the information we can give them," explains Terry Kline, technical services manager.

"This is definitely a new concept for us. It represents a cultural change for Navistar as well as a technological change."

After weighing these diverse requirements, Navistar installed an extensive fiber-optic network provided by Chipcom Corp., Southborough, Mass.

"The biggest benefit was the distance that it allowed us to go from point-to-point Ethernet today, including a hub built for our future FDDI (fiber distributed data interface) plan," Kline says.

"In order to move massive engineering drawings from the computer room to the plant floor, we're going to need FDDI speeds."

Navistar runs an application which lets workers efficiently schedule and track truck cab manufacturing through its many stages of body assembly, painting and shipping. Numerous inventory, bar code and time-and-attendance applications are in operation. Another application monitors waste water treatment at a distant location.

In the future, assembly workers will access full graphic images of assembly drawings in real time.

"We designed the network to last 20 years, so our goal was to provide bandwidth and growth capabilities over that timeframe," Kline says.

In today's complex information environment, computers can fail for a variety of reasons ranging from natural disaster to industrial sabotage.

A company in the business of providing immediate assistance to end-users in such crisis situations has to ensure that its own data network are above reproach. That's why Comdisco Disaster Recovery Service of Rosemont, Ill., made the decision to install an internet which lets it provide companies with the service and equipment they need to resume normal operations within hours.

Customers use a variety of mainframe and minicomputer equipment, and Comdisco must ensure it can match its commitment with the equipment it has available.

Given the variety of today's computer equipment, it is impossible to do this on a site-by-site basis by phone.

"This leads only to islands of information," says Jim Ziegler, manager of information systems at CDRS. "Each location ends up with its own homegrown solution and there will be no standardization.

To remedy this situation and coordinate the work of all 11 sites including its main IBM AS/400, handling contract administration and inventory control, Comdisco relies on a nationwide network of token ring LANs.

Its network consists of 11 LANs, two in Rosemont, three in New Jersey and one each in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, Dallas, Atlanta and Wood Dale, Ill.

The LANs are networked over 56 kb/s lines leased from a common carrier using ILAN routers from CrossCom Corp., Marlboro, Mass.

These not only allow local device connectivity but also provide the user with full applications transparency to the headquarter's LANs.

As a result, customers can run NetWare AS/400 applications just as if they were attached locally.

The network permits Comdisco to do contract administration and inventory control at any location. Drawings prepared using CAD at Rosemont can be sent to all sites for change and retransmission or sign-off.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:disaster recovery assistance from Comdisco Disaster Recovery Service; Navistar uses an extensive fiber-optic network set up by Chipcom Corp.
Author:Stewart, Alan
Publication:Communications News
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Previous Article:Travel firm has no reservations about ACD software.
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