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I can tell you what I think ought to happen next. S88 was written at a time when the problem to be solved was batch control. It is written in unabashedly batch terminology. A lot of that gets in the way of people understanding how to apply it to other kinds of processes. It seems to me that we’re going to have to have guidelines, or perhaps even separate standards addressing the various kinds of manufacturing using S88’s principles. I think that’s needed because the terminology and the language turns people off. They have to interpret, and a lot of people don’t like interpreting.
Wilkins: I agree that there’s more work to be done with S88. Coming back to S88 and S95, there are some needs in some industries to combine the two together into some kind of modular automation standard. There are some industries that will get scared off by the word “batch.” It was more than 10 years ago now that S88 was brought out, and it does need refreshing. There’s a need to bring all of the parts together, and I do know that the SP88 committee is starting to talk again about a revision, and that’s coming along too.
Craig: There’s an active working group looking at revising S88.01, and there’s also an active working group trying to define how S88 and S95 work together. I think S88 and S95 will work well together, once we get all the bugs out and all the lines of communication clear. One of the things holding back process automation technology is that we didn’t have good communication with the business aspects of the company. One reason MESs haven’t been as productive as they should be is that, in the past, they haven’t had good connections to the manufacturing process. So I think the linkage of S88 and S95 helps both the quality of automation and the quality of the management of that process.
Wilkins: The state of the batch is good. It is going in the right direction. The standards are in place, and all of the suppliers have control systems that address the issues around batch. There’s a lot of activity still around the standards, which is a good thing. As I said earlier, they just need to get adopted in a broader sense and in a wider sense. They need to reach more of the people they were intended reach in first place. In an adoption sense, they’re getting out there, but the people who need to understand them are still not getting it.
Craig: There’s still a lot to learn. A lot of people have to learn a lot. I think we need to get two or three things going at the same time. WBF has been trying to address these things, and has been for its entire existence, but formal education on the theory and implementation of batch control is still needed. We need to learn how to use this stuff, from the real nuts and bolts things all the way back to the theory. Continuous processes have developed a good deal of theory on optimizers and so forth, probably spawning more Ph.D theses than any other topic. We could use some of that in the batch and process automation worlds.
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