IT Involvement Needed

Manufacturing companies competing in a global supply network require information management systems that integrate the supply chain demand information with factory floor fulfillment processes in order to meet flawless product delivery requirements.

Such companies turn to their information technology (IT) and engineering experts to integrate their enterprise and business logistic systems with their manufacturing automation systems to exchange the information required to manage the planning, sourcing, production and delivery processes.

The Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society’s ISA-95 Standard for Enterprise and Control System Integration provides a best practice approach and standard object model for the integration of these systems. This standard also provides a framework for IT and engineering professionals to work together to provide the integrated systems needed by their common client—manufacturing.

The illustration provides a simplified view of the functional levels related to enterprise and control system integration.

Historically, the business planning and logistic systems have been implemented using technology that IT professionals have responsibility for. The manufacturing process systems for batch, continuous and discrete control have traditionally been the responsibility of engineering professionals. Although the systems in both levels are implemented using the same fundamental computer technologies, there are very different requirements for each, with domain expertise that is also quite different.

Business systems tend to be transactional in nature, processing large amounts of information among many end-users and other systems to support the business level processes

related to supply chain management and optimization. Manufacturing control systems process large amounts of information directly related to the inputs and outputs of the manufacturing process. These control systems process information in the timeframe of the underlying process in order to manage and control the process.

Manufacturing operations management is the middle ground between the business level systems and the manufacturing control level systems, where the two worlds of IT and engineering come together. Systems within manufacturing operations management have transactional and real-time information processing characteristics similar to business and automation level systems, respectively. Defining, developing, deploying and maintaining manufacturing operation management systems requires the skills and experience of both IT and engineering professionals.

Standard interfaces

The first two parts of the ISA-95 standard are focused on the interfaces between the business level and manufacturing level systems related to production. Object models are defined to support the four information exchange categories as specified by the standard at this initial interface boundary. The four exchange interfaces are product definitions, production capability, production schedule and production performance. Product definitions provide the information exchanged on how to make products. Production capability provides the information exchanged on manufacturing capability and capacities. The production schedule provides the information exchanged on what products to make and the resources needed to make them. Production performance provides the information exchanged on what was actually produced and what resources were used in production.

With the object models defined by the standard now complete, it is possible for ISA-95-based implementations to be developed. B2MML (Business to Manufacturing Markup Language) is an eXtensible Markup Language (XML) implementation of the first two parts of the standard, and was developed by members of the WBF (www.wbf.org). Early adopters of B2MML reported significant reduction in the time and cost required to integrate their enterprise and manufacturing systems.

There are currently nearly 300 members of the ISA-SP95 committee working together to define the object models that will support the manufacturing operations management activities and data flows (Part Four of the standard). To get involved, please contact the author.

Keith Unger, kunger@stonetek.com, is principal manufacturing IT consultant for Stone Technologies, and chair of the ISA-SP95 committee.

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