Open Process Automation Forum holds first meeting

Jan. 10, 2017
ExxonMobil and friends developing standards-based, interoperable process control architecture.

Process automation industry stakeholders gathered in San Francisco on Nov. 16-17 for the first meeting of the Open Process Automation Forum, an organization formed to further the development of a “standards-based, open, secure, interoperable process control architecture.”

Facilitated by the Open Group, a vendor-neutral IT standards development organization, the forum is an outgrowth of recent ExxonMobil efforts to build industry consensus behind a new generation of process automation systems that are less proprietary, and therefore easier to maintain, upgrade and migrate—as well as enhance with new capabilities.

[sidebar id =1]The forum’s first meeting drew 57 representatives from 30 of its 41 member organizations at the time—which by Dec. 15 had more than doubled to nearly 100. Member organizations include an array of end users, traditional process automation system suppliers, as well as a mix of complementary IT and communications technology providers.

During this first members meeting, organizers reported in a follow-up blog post that a few things quickly became clear:

  • There are common pain points spanning multiple sectors, such as aging control systems and the need for more rapid technology insertion, which the proposed standards effort can address to the benefit of customers;
  • There are common pain points shared by suppliers in current business models;
  • The supplier community is eager to work collaboratively on an open standard for process control; and,
  • Participants have a common understanding that a win-win outcome providing benefits to end users and suppliers is essential, and forum members are keen to deliver on this.

The members also discussed the scope of this new standards effort, defined the forum’s organizational structure, and named interim leaders. They are co-chairs Don Bartusiak of ExxonMobil and Trevor Cusworth of Schneider Electric. Working groups focusing on business, enterprise architecture, and technical issues also were established. In addition, the forum is working on a standards landscape document, which will survey other standards for possible incorporation into the “standard of standards” that the forum plans to create. Outreach and engagement with other standards organizations is being discussed and planned.

Launch events are scheduled to coincide with the Open Group's meeting on Jan. 30 through Feb. 2 in San Francisco, and at ARC Industry Forum on Feb. 6-9 in Orlando. Organizers are encouraging stakeholders who want to help influence the direction of the standards development work to become members and get directly involved.