Manufacturing Interoperability Group Formed

The new collaborative venture will develop a guideline aimed at convergence of manufacturing interoperability standards.

The creation of the Manufacturing Interoperability Guideline Working Group, a collaborative venture involving five organizations, was recently announced. The Working Group is the next step in the previous announcement by the Open Applications Group (OAGi) and the Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society’s ISA SP95 committee to converge their standards for manufacturing interoperability by working to support the OpenO&M Initiative—a virtual organization of manufacturing standards groups that is pursuing open standards for operations and maintenance.

In addition to OAGi and the ISA, additional participants in the new Manufacturing Interoperability Guideline Working Group include the Machinery Information Management Open Systems Alliance (MIMOSA), the OPC Foundation and the WBF, previously known as the World Batch Forum. The Working Group will develop an industry guideline that defines generic business process models between the operations management and business layers of the manufacturing support system.

According to the announcement, released by the ISA, the guideline will be applicable to process, discrete and mixed-mode manufacturers. It will reflect a convergence of the manufacturing interoperability standards work underway within ISA SP95, OAGi, WBF, MIMOSA and OPC. The guideline will facilitate development of reusable integration software components for processes in the form of Web Services in an open standard eXtensible Mark-up language (XML) format.

Struggling with standards

“Many enterprises today are struggling with the myriad of standards available to them and often do not know which standards they should be using,” said David Connelly, OAGi chief executive officer. “Many of our OAGIS (for Open Applications Group Integration Specification) users are using both ISA-95 and OAGIS and we are excited to participate in this initiative that will simplify their efforts and provide our customers with a common solution.”

In order to assure that the Working Group addresses issues that reflect market need, a Customer Advisory Council has been created. The Council will be composed of representatives from end-user companies in process, discrete and mixed-mode manufacturing. The Council will collaborate and agree upon a recommended, prioritized list of business processes, or scenarios, to be addressed by the Working Group. These business processes will be documented as simple interface data flows and prioritized by the Council to provide guidance and support to the Working Group, according to the announcement.

The Council will identify industry specific needs and business scenarios with areas of overlap across industries. The group will work to classify the underlying technologies to support deployment of standards-based software components as Web Services. It will also explore interoperability standards and guidelines and software deployment strategies to ensure a viable and unified market opportunity is available to the software suppliers.

End-user guidance

“This end-user customer guidance and support is critical, because it can lead to suppliers implementing the guideline in the form of commercial product,’ said Greg Gorbach, vice president of collaborative manufacturing at ARC Advisory Group Inc., in Dedham, Mass., which has facilitated the creation of the Customer Council. “It’s also important that the Working Group leverage the Customer Advisory Council to establish appropriate linkages with vertical industry groups so that the initiative reaches broad industry segments.”

The announcement said that the initial guideline developed by the Working Group will reflect convergence of the work of ISA, OAGi and WBF, and will be the basis for future alignment of the OPC Unified Architecture model (OPC is an interoperability standard), the MIMOSA open systems architecture and the PackML work of the Open Modular Architecture Control (OMAC) Users Group.

The Working Group will meet initially in April, and hopes to issue interim schemas in 2006 and the guideline by mid-2007. The completed guideline will be jointly copyrighted by the member organizations, but will be made available for royalty free public use, according to the announcement.

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