Automation World: How did you manage to involve so many people in this book?
Bianca Scholten: I started writing articles about ISA-95, manufacturing execution systems (MES) and system integration in 2003. Over the years, I have interviewed many people, such as SP95 committee members, end-users, consultants and software vendors. I thought it was a good idea to include their viewpoints and experiences in the book, as an extension to my own experiences and viewpoints.
AW: The ISA-95 standard covers manufacturing broadly. What was the composition of the committee that enabled such a broad definition?
Scholten: The committee included a mixture of representatives from software vendors—some are enterprise resource planning (ERP) suppliers, but most are control system vendors, system integrators, consultants, universities and end-users. End-users represent several different industries, including food, pharma, chemicals and consumer electronics.
AW: In your book, you have examples of implementing ISA-95. Since that time, what has been the acceptance and adoption of the standard?
Scholten: We are still in a phase in which many companies do not even have an MES solution, and this is needed before you can start integrating it with ERP. But in cases in which companies do integrate their MES and ERP, ISA-95 at least is used as a handy method to look for data in different systems and match the differences in terminology in different systems. Most companies (about 80 percent) use SAP (the Waldorf, Germany-based enterprise software supplier) as an ERP system. They do not use the newest releases, but SAP uses ISA-95 in its newest releases and products. As soon as end-user companies are going to use these kinds of new software solutions, ISA-95 interfaces are available. But most companies still use older versions, which makes it hardly possible to apply ISA-95 at the technical level. I think it will still take a few years before more companies start to buy new releases and new products, but at least most of the new MES and ERP products provide ISA-95-compliant interfaces, so it only is a matter of time for end-users to make use of all the ISA-95 advantages.
AW: What benefits have manufacturers gained so far from implementing ISA-95?
Scholten: Larger companies are becoming more and more aware of the fact that having one common language in the company, in different divisions and on different sites, leads to advantages like easier comparison of sites’ capabilities and sites’ performance and more re-use possibilities. Companies that have used ISA-95 on a technical level are re-using interfaces on other sites. In cases of mergers and acquisitions, the merge is done faster when the new plant uses an MES system that has ISA-95 interfaces. It leads to something like “plug-and-play.”
In the future, ISA-95 will lead to having more integrated systems, using the same data in a central database, so much less effort in systems maintenance and master data management [will be required]. Currently, companies are still taking the first steps, so hardly any numbers about ROI (return on investment) are available. But the fact that software vendors are modifying their products and making them ISA-95 compliant is a very good step that will inevitably lead to some of these advantages, without end-user companies having to take the first risks.