We can greatly benefit from understanding what others have done, standards encapsulate the current best approach as seen by an individual or team. For end-users, these automation standards can be defined by associations and range from homegrown to corporate-driven.
The International Society of Automation (ISA) is well established by providing best practices from expert experiences and can be used to avoid starting each project from the ground up. These standards provide a reference point for communication between all team members and can be used to clearly define expectations.
As automation professionals, we find it interesting how these standards are not fully understood. Systems are implemented by individuals that do not fully understand these standards, yet think they do. Their implementations fall short of the system’s potential and the end-user ends up with a sub-optimal system. It is like listening to a kid tell the world that he knows how to ride a bicycle, and in his mind, he does. We all understand things to different degrees, just as the kid, we see the same in the implementation of batch projects. Some end-users and system integrators truly have a grasp on these standards, others learn about them for the first time during the implementation of an ongoing project which is not optimal.
Our advice is to understand the fundamental concepts of the standards before entering into developing a solution, and if necessary, learn the standards or have someone spend the time to transfer the knowledge necessary to develop a solution you can be proud of.
Among the common standards to be understood are ISA-88 and ISA-95 and we often hear people say that they are implementing one vs. the other, when truly, these two complement each other. Functionally, ISA-88 and ISA-95 can be superimposed, but the user needs to keep in mind what each standard’s main focus is intended for.
ISA-95’s focus is how data or information moves between the different functional areas of a plant. ISA-88 focuses on best practices and terminologies of a batch or procedural management system. Each of these can be further detailed as the different layers are exposed and understanding these layers and their functionality brings together a functional ecosystem.
ISA Standards have been developed with input from end-users, software & hardware providers as well as system integrators. By applying these standards, the end-user benefits, allowing the system to be optimized and provide improved system performance, maintainability, and operability, all while lowering the overall cost of ownership. Invest time to understand standards, and the payback will reward both the end-user as well as the community of automation engineers.
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