Essential IT Standards for the Process Industries

Imagine a world without electrical standards, such as 110V at 60hz, or 220 at 50Hz, or a world where every phone had a different type of connection and required a different type of switchboard.

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Just as these standards are critical to the basic functioning of electrical equipment, there are also information systems (IT) standards that are used daily to ensure optimal functioning of production systems in the process industries, says Dennis Brandl, chief consultant at BR&L Consulting Inc. (, Cary, N.C.

Brandl serves on the board of MESA International (, and has been an active member of the International Society of Automation (ISA, SP95 Enterprise/Control System Integration committee for the past ten years. Here is his list of the four production-related IT standards of special interest to the processing industries:

· The ANSI/ISA 88 standard on batch control;

· The ANSI/ISA 95 standard for MES and ERP-to-MES communication;

· The ANSI/ISA 99 technical reports in industrial cyber security; and

·  The new ANSI/ISA 106 technical report on procedure automation.

These standards and technical reports define the best practices for implementing automated and manual control on the systems that reside above the PLC (programmable logic controller) and DCS (distributed control system) level, and which perform the basic control that keep production running. These four standards all share a common view of a production facility, providing a consistent terminology that makes it easier to compare plants within a company and across companies.

The ANSI/ISA 88 standard defines the most common and effective method for defining control systems for batch operations or for continuous and discrete startups and shutdowns.

The ANSI/ISA 95 standard defines the most commonly used method for exchanging information between ERP systems, such as SAP or Oracle, and the multitude of shop floor systems. It has also become the de facto standard for defining MES (manufacturing execution system) and MOM (manufacturing operations management) specifications.

The ANSI/ISA 99 reports define structures and policies for designing effective and secure networked production facilities. The new ISA 106 reports define the procedural control strategy for continuous production during upsets, switchovers, and other types of process changes.

Because these standards establish a commonly accepted terminology, functions and process models by which technical professionals are trained, and upon which solution providers develop applications used in batch and process production operations (as well as discrete manufacturing), they should be of particular interest to those who are new to the field and those who seeking a refresher on the fundamentals of industrial processes. If you’d like more detailed information about these standards and their international versions, visit the ISA Website.

David Greenfield,, is Media and Events Director for Automation World.

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