It’s more than batch!

Maurice Wilkins, Chairman of the World Batch Forum, focuses on batch management, automation and integration in this new "special to the web" monthly column for ControlGlobal.com.

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 By Maurice Wilkins, Chairman, World Batch Forum

T

he very first World Batch Forum “Meeting of the Minds” was held at the Buttes Hotel in Phoenix, Ariz., in 1994. At the time I worked for Honeywell in Brussels as the head of its European batch automation center. About 65 other engineers and I went to that conference – some of us still proudly wear the shirt – and discussed the onset of S88, batch tools and other things batch. We set up the first board of directors and The World Batch Forum was underway.

This year we celebrated WBFs 10th anniversary and I had the great honor of being elected to the position of Chairman in May during the 2004 North American conference in Chicago. Since then I have taken some time to look back at what WBF has achieved in those 10 years, where it is now and where it is headed in the future.

When we started out – batch was definitely the “in” area in manufacturing. S88 was just out and people needed help in applying it. Plus there were all kinds of discussions around tools and engineering efficiency – based on many batch projects that had taken more time and money to implement than people had allowed for. The early conferences were full of presentations from various companies who had saved money by designing and implementing projects using S88.

And then things started to change…

The S95 standard for integrating business systems with process automation systems was borne out of discussions and presentations at the WBF. WBF’s work was then continued with the XML workgroup, which has been responsible for designing the B2MML and BatchML schemas. The schemas are available via the WBF website (www.wbf.org).

WBF also has been a key part in bringing the packaging people of OMAC together with the S88 people to develop S88 packaging standards. This has been set up as another WBF working group. A charter has been developed and the group is very active.

The forum runs several very informative webcasts each year on topical subjects of interest to our members – including one to be given December 16th by Darrin Fleming of Futuresight Consulting. He will be presenting “Developing a Quantifiable Business Case for Batch Automation Solutions.” In addition to this, we have been asked to give workshops on the application of the S88 and S95 standards to real world problems. We are looking at holding one- or two-day sessions in multiple locations – including internationally – in the fall of 2005.

On the international front, we just ran our most successful European conference to-date in Brussels, coupled with meetings of both of the workgroups mentioned above. This also has spawned a new WBF group: academia. Several key people from the academic world have come together under the WBF banner and offered to work with us on programs that have value to the manufacturing industry.

So – having looked back, if I look at where we are now – WBF is much more than batch. It has become a forum for automation and integration. Our conferences now cover the applications of the XML schemas.

I will be covering the areas mentioned above in more details in future editions of this column. It is clear to me that WBF is now broader and impacts more areas of the automation and integration aspects of manufacturing industries than ever before. It is an exciting time to be at the helm of such a dynamic and diverse organization. BUT – we need more members, sponsors and volunteers. Please contact me at maurice@wbf.org for more information.


Maurice Wilkins is Chairman of the World Batch Forum and can be reached by e-mail at maurice@wbf.org.

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