Re: Production Line
You are very correct about building things more appropriately in the first place. However the commercial computer industry is very young, it has changed massively in its time due to huge advances in technology and along the way common sense has often given way to convenience or greed. In this case I mean greed through trying to get a product out as quick as possible, ignoring the future or best practices. This applies equally to the designers of industrial machinery utilising the advantages that computers could give them.
This is where defined standards are critical to everything. We wouldn't have the Internet we have today without defined standards which are, relatively, vendor neutral. Individual vendors will always want to push their take on something which shouldn't really be seen as a wholly bad thing, as long as the end result is sensible. The more open these standards are the better as it allows the implementation of a solution by multiple, competing vendors and interoperability between systems. Again, we wouldn't have the World Wide Web without this - instead we'd be mired in the locked in blight that was AOL, Compuserve and similar.
Standards benefit many levels, for example Virgin Media uses cable modems that adhere to the DOCSIS standard. This allows VM to select the "best" or "most appropriate" solution for them which need not be a single supplier or manufacturer. The residential power plugs we take for granted all use a defined standard, with defined tolerances and performance - consider the nightmare this would be without this basic standard - an extended form of travel plug nightmare. For reference, in the early days of computers and PCs, many used proprietary connectors for the other end of the power cable rather than the IEC form that is now uniform internationally.
Ideally the designers of industrial machinery mentioned here should have used defined communication standards and definitely not use closed, proprietary protocols such as NetBEUI / NetBIOS and similar. Unfortunately these short-sighted decisions are often made in the pursuit of new technology and fast (i.e. cheap) development time. At the time these devices were designed, more open protocols such as CAN (CAN-Open), CAN/TCP or the many other protocols may have not been available or the devices that were available just did not have the right functionality.