Standards for better not worse!

ISA, WBF, MIMOSA OAGi and OPC have set up the Manufacturing Interoperability Guideline (MIG) working group to bring harmony to two of the automation industry’s most important standards.

Batch DispatchBy Maurice Wilkins, Chairman WBF & VP Consulting, ARC Advisory Group

WE ARE ALL faced with standards in one way or another every single day of our lives. Some have been edicted and others just became standards through force of choice. The list of common objects that are now standard are endless. For instance, video systems – there was once Betamax and VHS. Betamax was a better product, but we all use VHS these days. Then there was the 8-track player for cars that was superseded by the cassette player. This was an obvious choice as the size of the 8-track tapes was unmanageable. The mini-disk tried to oust the CD – but we all know what happened there. Some standard product names even become generic for that piece of equipment – for instance the Hoover.

Why is this important and how does it apply to our industry?

The reason is that we have multiple standards and guidelines across manufacturing automation at the moment. For instance, ISA-88, ISA-95 and their multiple sub-parts, plus a plethora of other standards in and around the industry. Then there are similar standards within OAGIS, MIMOSA and other groups. This all creates a difficult situation for users wanting to integrate multiple systems. There has to be some simplification and convergence as control systems become more and more alike in functionality and the drive to integrate from sensor to boardroom is becoming more of a requirement than a dream.

Help is at hand, though, as the industry sees this, too. Various workgroups are active in trying to bring some harmony to the subject. ISA, WBF, MIMOSA OAGi and OPC have set up the Manufacturing Interoperability Guideline (MIG) working group, which met as recently as October 12th at the MESA Conference in Orlando. Efforts are also underway to integrate ISA-88 and 95, two of the automation industry’s most important standards.

Much work was done on ISA-88, ISA-95, and the joint working group, at the ISA Expo meeting in Houston from October 16th to 19th – so expect to see more progress.

As we see expertise leaving the industry – but the need for it increasing, the only way forward is to have good, portable standards.

Please make sure that you take part in one of the standards committees or workgroups – members are always welcome.

  About the Author
Maurice Wilkins Chairman of the WBF and can be reached by e-mail at
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