Microsoft Corp this week launched a collaborative initiative with customers, developers and manufacturers aimed at producing a technical architecture that it says will simplify the process of deploying, integrating and managing systems within manufacturing environments. Redmond says the architecture, called Windows Distributed interNet Applications (Windows DNA) for Manufacturing, will allow companies to integrate their disparate manufacturing applications enabling data to flow seamlessly between distributed systems on the shop floor and backoffice ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications. The integration, says Microsoft, will improve a manufacturer’s ability to gather, share and analyze key data elements and information throughout the enterprise in real time, resulting in more proactive business decisions and reduced costs. Marcus Schmidt, industry marketing manager for manufacturing supply chain, said DNA for manufacturing relies on the COM (Component Object Model) to integrate ERP applications and the commerce interchange pipeline feature of its Site Server commerce edition to integrate the disparate manufacturing applications from the shop floor to the warehouse or factory. The company has already released a DNA for the financial services, retail and healthcare sectors and Schmidt said it was now working on a similar solution for the energy sector, to integrate data from upstream oil and gas exploration software down to the software which controls the pumps inside gas stations. The announcement was made at an industry event earlier this week by Microsoft president Steve Ballmer. Speaking at the show, Ballmer cited research from the analyst firm, AMR Research, which stated that the manufacturing execution systems (MES) market was worth nearly $300m, of which Windows NT-based products led with 49%. The group also predicts that by 2002, two-thirds of all ERP shipments, an integral part of the manufacturing process, will be made on Windows NT. Ballmer said that this latest architecture, DNA for Manufacturing, is being developed and supported by numerous developers, hardware vendors and systems integrators. including Aspen Technology, Compaq Computer Corp, Ernst & Young, Honeywell Inc and SAP AG and Siemens Nixdorf Information Systems Inc.