WBF's Expanded Vision

World Batch Forum, now known simply as WBF, is a nonprofit, professional organization dedicated to supporting the process automation and operations needs of the technical and management professions in process manufacturing.

WBF facilitates the interchange and development of information and knowledge in order to help its members succeed and to exert a positive influence on industry. Over the years, it has broadened its focus from purely batch process related issues to automation and manufacturing. Its new tag line: “WBF—The Forum for Automation and Manufacturing Professionals” aptly describes its expanded vision and current initiatives in driving horizontal and vertical enterprise integration and interoperability standards.

David Beckman, retired senior vice president for marketing at Emerson Process Management, gave the opening keynote address for the 2005 WBF North American Conference, held in Atlantic City, N.J., May 15-18. His talk was about leadership, but his emphasis was on future manufacturing and the enhanced role of process automation professionals. Beckman said that for years, the profits went more to investors than into investment in the company and its future. This is about to change, with increased emphasis on the value of people that do the actual work. Ian Nimmo, president of User Centered Design Services, and an expert on human factors engineering, delivered the second-day keynote. His message was similar to Beckman’s, about how operators are no longer low-level employees, but rather highly capable knowledge workers.

Joint working group

A paper presented by Tom Fisher Award recipient Lynn Craig, president of Manufacturing Automation Associates, and chairman of the ISA SP88 committee, described the tasks of the joint working group formed to define how the Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society’s ISA-88 and ISA-95 standards should work together. The relationship between the two families of standards has not been well defined. Even though they share a significant amount of commonality, one of the biggest challenges will be to identify and resolve the overlaps and gaps that exist. The joint working group, co-chaired by Craig and Keith Unger, is expected to begin to define this relationship and generate a technical report in the near future.

One of the biggest problems in developing a plant-to-business (P2B) integration standard is the overlap and gaps in the many existing standards. A paper jointly authored by John Blanchard and Bob Mick, of ARC Advisory Group, discussed the adoption of ISA-95 as the basis for a P2B interoperability framework. The presentation suggested the essential elements to be standardized in the P2B framework model as processes, documents (Business-to-Manufcturing Markup Language, or B2MML), messages (ISA-95 Part 5), interfaces and registries. David Chappell, of Procter & Gamble, and Adam Maki, of Rockwell Automation, presented papers on packaging standards. Chappell talked about the Make2Pack

initiative, whose main objectives include harmonizing the Open Modular Architecture Controls Packaging Work Group’s PackML guidelines with ISA-88 and the ISA-95 Part 3 standards, and developing recommendations for submitting PackML as an ISA and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standard. Chappell believes this initiative will bring forth a revolution in the way manufacturing operates. He expects that the architecture, terminology, models and descriptions will be completed before the end of 2005.

Maki observed that the dream of full plug-and-play plant machinery is a distant objective at best. Right now, there are no real standard methods of defining the structure of motion control applications. He suggested that it is time to work together to define them.

WBF provides an excellent vantage point to understand the changes occurring in manufacturing, including batch, hybrid and packaging industries. ARC recommends active participation of manufacturers in WBF activities, because there is a deep reservoir of knowledge that can help users increase productivity, lower costs and improve response to changing market conditions.

Asish Ghosh, aghosh@arcweb.com, is vice president, and John Blanchard, jblanchard@arcweb.com, is principal analyst of manufacturing advisory services, at ARC Advisory Group, Dedham, Mass.

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