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How John Deere links worldwide Ethernet network.

Although based in Moline, Ill., John Deere & Company has production and design facilities located throughout the world.

The 1980s were tumultuous for the farm equipment manufacturer. The firm downsized from 68,000 employees to today's 39,000. The company has looked for ways to reduce costs while maintaining its high standard of product quality.

An area of particular focus is computer and communications resources.

John Deere is decentralized. The corporate MIS group must provide all business units with excellent products and services, or the units can go to outside vendors. The group provides tools, education and support to unit coordinators so they can use the products and support their own unit's users.

Products previously were designed in one location. Divisions from other countries spent a lot of time and money traveling to that location to negotiate design changes to fit their local marketing and internal manufacturing needs. This process was expensive and took extra time for products to be delivered to international markets.

Deere decided to integrate design and production systems worldwide. By integrating its distributed resources, Deere could design a product once, receiving input from all of the facilities, and incorporate options for different markets.

Steve Chamberlin, senior engineer for John Deere Waterloo Product Engineering Center, explains, "We needed to link up all of our resources around the world. Each division needed transparent access to the data in every other division. We wanted all data to appear local, so people wouldn't need to worry about where the data is stored or how to get to it."

Deere built a network architecture that provided interoperability between their mainframe and workstations.

The company built a wide-area Ethernet network that linked many of their engineering and manufacturing mini- and micro-computers via TCP/IP. They then looked to connect this WAN with their existing SNA network.

The result was John Deere's wide area integrated network (WIN).

Al Regan, division manager of computer operations for Deere, says, "Once we had all of our locations connected to the Ethernet, we needed to bring our IBM mainframe environment to those users. We purchased Interlink Computer Sciences' SNS/TCPaccess to provide the interoperability we needed."

SNS/TCPaccess is the base product of a network integration family. It provides FTP file transfer, electronic mail support, Telnet terminal emulation and LPR printing support between IBM MVS mainframes and TCP/IP networks.

Deere uses SNS/API, a transport-independent application program on various platforms including Sun, RS6000, VAX, Tandem and Apple systems to provide a common interface into IBM mainframe applications.

For IBM 327X users, SNS/TCPvt provides ASCII terminal emulation.

Milford Gray, manager of technical support for John Deere's Waterloo Works, points out that by integrating computer resources through WIN, other benefits were realized.

"We keep parts data on an IMS database on our IBM mainframe," he says. "With SNS/TCPaccess, product design engineers working with Oracle databases on UNIX workstations or VAX computers can bring this existing parts information into their databases as they design new products."

The interoperability provided through the WIN network will yield other benefits for the company. Deere also has begun "simultaneous engineering" where different departments within the company have input at the design stage.

Using simultaneous engineering, the company can plan the production and support aspects of new products directly into the design, greatly reducing costs in both areas.

It also plans to use the gateway to transfer tens of thousands of mechanical drawings for access via IBM's Hierarchical Storage Management on MVS.

"We have accomplished a number of very important goals through the implementation of the WIN network," says Al Regan.

"We have improved effiency, reduced costs and improved product quality through increased utilization of computer resources.

"The users here at John Deere and the customers around the world who use John Deere products will benefit from this project.

"These are the measures by which we judge our own success," he says.
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:Deere and Co.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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