In my discussions with users, they express the desire for automation and control systems with useful, consistent features and interfaces that satisfy real-world needs. Automation professionals have the opportunity to influence and improve automation industry directions when they are active members of ISA, participating in the development of high-quality, unbiased automation information, standards, and technical information.
A great example is the ISA-88 series of standards, the first published 20 years ago, that has improved productivity, efficiency, and quality for manufacturers worldwide and inspired other standards, including the ISA-95 series. Before ISA-88, each automation manufacturer had a unique method and system to organize and execute batch process automation. This required users to learn the application philosophy and specifics of systems from each automation vendor. The ISA-88 standards for Batch Control include a common set of terminology, definitions, and data structures, as well as a definition of the physical, process, and procedural models of a batch manufacturing system. These standard guidelines are general in nature and were developed specifically for batch industries, such as specialty chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, and consumer product industries. Applying these standards properly can allow for highly flexible manufacturing that is easily configured, maintained, and modified.
Due to the success of the widely accepted standards, the concept has been applied to continuous processes and discrete manufacturing. Acknowledged benefits of ISA-88 adoption in the real world include quicker time to market, faster new plant startups, reliable product changeovers, the ability to create recipes in parallel, lower total cost of automation ownership, and reduced training costs as engineers move between plants and process cells with different suppliers’ systems and processes. The standards have also empowered chemists and food scientists and others to develop recipes and make processing changes without having to understand detailed programming and equipment functions.
Automation industry improvements such as ISA-88 come from the active participation of automation professionals in developing standards and best practices that satisfy real industry needs. Your opportunity is to participate in several key ISA initiatives to improve the automation industry.
Your contributions to the topics of the day are valuable. They include setting engineering and technology standards to improve the productivity, efficiency, management, safety, and cybersecurity of modern automation and control systems. Standards help clarify user needs for suppliers, providing structured input of requirements, which influence suppliers to develop the most effective industrial automation products.
The next time you are complaining about the difficulty of using industrial automation and control products, think about your opportunity to improve the industrial automation industry and make things better. You have a voice, and this is a valuable experience for yourself that you should seriously consider. ISA gives members a way to work together to develop and deliver high-quality, unbiased automation information, standards, and technical information and opportunities to network with other automation professionals.
More than 4,000 individuals working across 140 committees and subgroups from cybersecurity to process safety to interfaces between industrial process control computers and subsystems are developing standards in key areas. Volunteers are not asked to make ISA their main career goal, but everyone’s contribution is valuable.
Bill Lydon is chief editor of InTech magazine. Lydon has been active in manufacturing automation for more than 25 years. He started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers and process control technology. In addition to experience at various large companies, he co-founded and was president of a venture-capital-funded industrial automation software company. Lydon believes the success factors in manufacturing are changing, making it imperative to apply automation as a strategic tool to compete.
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A version of this article originally was published at InTech magazine.