Can We Talk?

In the construction industry, an architect may be engaged to modify or improve a house, and will make a drawing of the future situation. This drawing is the basis for a conversation about the customer’s wishes and requirements. The drawing is used to compare the future form of the house to the house as it is now. People all use the same terminology (door, roof, wall, window) and that is why they understand each other. Although every house may be different, any house can be described using this terminology.

Aw 4595 Scmesa 10

The same concept is applicable to industrial companies. These companies are very different from each other, and yet, they are can be described using ISA-95 models and terminology to provide a basis for discussion and improvement. In short, the ISA-95 models are analogous to those structural/building plans for a house. ISA-95 is a plant-to-enterprise communication standard promulgated by the Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society (ISA).

End users and consultants are using ISA-95 models to analyze and describe a specific industrial company. This is typically done for different purposes, like getting more insight into the current automation situation, or finding out how enterprise and manufacturing processes can be improved. And, this methodology is working.

Tried and True

Recently, a pharmaceuticals company with sites all over the world used the ISA-95 models to investigate if it was possible to implement one single system for electronic batch records on all of its sites. The investigators analyzed and described the characteristics of each site’s production processes. They also listed the automation systems that were in place on every site. This enabled them to identify the differences and similarities among the sites and what the impact of the implementation of one system for electronic batch records would be on all those sites. The ISA-95 As-Is/To-Be approach appeared to be a very good means for them to compare different sites and to develop a road map for the future situation at different sites.

As a second example, a company that produces potato products used the ISA-95 models to find the answer to the question of whether the manufacturing execution system (MES) functionality within the company’s SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) system was suitable for the automation of its production activities. If not, the company would have to select a suitable MES system. Investigators used the ISA-95 models as a checklist to describe their requirements for every MES activity. They evaluated every ISA-95-defined activity to determine if the SAP functionality met the requirement. With the ISA-95 As-Is / To-Be approach, it took them only two days to end a long period of discussions and uncertainty and to reach consensus within the company.

Industrial companies also use the ISA-95 models for describing the responsibilities of their organizations’ departments and for describing their processes and automation systems. This produces a document that acquaints new employees or external parties with the companies’ operations and with internal communication based on the same mental picture and using the same terminology.

The ISA-95 models are used in a variety of industrial environments—from companies that produce batches to those executing discrete and/or continuous processes. Thus, ISA-95 is used in all kinds of industries—pharmaceutical, food, chemicals, automotive and others. The models are used in green-field as well as in brown-field situations.

Across nearly every environment, ISA-95 models and terminology provide a sound basis for the analysis of a manufacturing enterprise. Using ISA-95 models leads to a structured and standardized, repeatable approach for manufacturing enterprises and consulting companies for re-modeling and re-engineering the business processes of a manufacturing enterprise. This way, companies find optimization possibilities and realize strategic advantages for the manufacturing enterprise.        


Bianca Scholten,, is a partner at the Ordina ISA-95 & MES Competence Centre, in Nieuwegein, The Netherlands.
Matthew Schneider,
, is principle operations consultant, Optika Solutions, in Eden Prairie, Minn.

Charlie Gifford,, is director of lean production management at GE Fanuc Automation, in Charlottesville, Va.

The authors represent MESA International,

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