Out of the Automation Box

July 13, 2007
ISA announces the S100 Compliance Institute to test and enforce compliance with new wireless standard. The S100 will be avilable to the publin in late 2008.
ISA announced at the end of May that it is forming an S100 Compliance Institute to test and enforce compliance with the new wireless standard that won’t be coming out in public until late 2008 or so. It is also forming a Cybersecurity Compliance Institute to do the same thing for the nascent S99 standard.

That’s great, and it’s well past time for ISA to be doing this, especially since WINA, the Wireless Industrial Networking Alliance is a member of the Automation Federation and should easily be able to administer the S100 Compliance Institute.

ISA seems to have forgotten that it owns two of the most important manufacturing standards—ANSI/ISA-88 and ANSI/ISA-95—and they are in danger of slipping away and out of control.  Why isn’t ISA forming a compliance institute for these standards?

As important as S100 and S99 are, they are still inside the familiar automation box where we’ve always played. S88 and S95, on the other hand, are well outside our comfort zone as automation professionals. They are about manufacturing, not just automation, and they are standards for business practice, not necessarily for control.

Other so-called standards organizations and commercial companies are hijacking those standards and the intellectual property they represent. ISA, WBF and the Automation Federation don’t seem to want to do anything about it.

That’s a shame because of the lost opportunity for ISA to elevate the automation professional to the position of “business analyst” and make it stick.

ISA could be playing on the much larger stage of “business activity standards.” WBF and ISA standards committees are missing a huge chance to bring the discussion out of the automation ghetto and into the boardroom where it belongs.

If, as ARC, AMR and Aberdeen are reporting, only about 18% of companies see the value in what we are doing for real-time optimization and enterprise integration, it’s up to the industry voice to talk to the unbelievers.

ISA should start a S88/S95 Compliance Institute. It should let people know that the only people qualified to interpret the most important standards in manufacturing today are the people that wrote them, and start telling vendors to stop calling non-compliant products “ISA-88 Aware” It should start telling other standards bodies they can’t call add-ons “S99 extensions” unless the SP99 committee has approved them.

I’ve been channeling  Lynn Craig’s view that we are “being dragged kicking and screaming back into the world of manufacturing” for years. Now here’s a chance for we automation professionals to do the dragging and let the world of manufacturing do the kicking and screaming.

Manufacturing should not be optional. It shouldn’t be a big black hole covered up by financial rollups that mask what’s really going on in a factory and how automation optimization brings real dollars to the bottom line. Companies that discover that truth and those hidden dollars will be the leaders, and those that don’t will be learning the lessons of Amalgamated Buggy Whip the hard way—unless we automation professionals and ISA decide it’s just too hard to climb out of the comfortable, familiar automation box.