I spent some time out of the office last week, which included my renting a car for a few days. For those of you that are regular travelers, you have probably developed a routine that is now familiar with you, including what route you travel and what car you rent. For those of us that are not frequent car renters, this process can be a challenge when you are driving an unfamiliar car in an area that is unfamiliar to you – simple actions such as turning on the defroster or cruise control can be a daunting task. Fortunately for me, the cruise control mechanism for my rental car operated exactly like my car at home. This was comforting, as I was driving quickly down an unfamiliar freeway in the middle of the night!
As I appreciated the familiarity and ease of use I had just experienced, it got me thinking about manufacturing standards and the benefits that consumers are afforded when consistency is achieved across an industry. These standards tend to become more pronounced as industries progress along their maturity curve. This “tribal” knowledge has been shared amongst all the firms, resulting in a consensus on best-practice design and production processes. For example, the use of a remote control based on Infrared technology seems to be an accepted standardization that manufacturers serving the television market have all adopted.
The challenge is for those manufacturers operating in an emerging industry where standardized best practice is not necessarily known or understood. Standards “battles” will break out in these situations, ultimately resulting in both winners and losers. For a post on this topic, read “Before You Pick Out a Pair of Augmented Reality Glasses.”
In the same way that products are engineered and produced to a set of industry standards to ease end-user usability, manufacturing IT systems have a set of industry standards to ease the implementation and management of these systems. One of the more common is referred to as ISA-95. This international standard was developed to ease the automated interfaces that are necessary to connect enterprise application systems with the control systems that operate a manufacturing plant’s equipment. This standard was developed for global manufacturers and can be applied in discrete, batch and continuous process industries.
The ISA-95 Standard comprises five levels – Level 0 to Level 4 – each representing a level of manufacturing production, from the shop floor equipment that occupy Level 0 to corporate planning at Level 4. Manufacturing operations management IT systems occupy Level Three, as shown in the illustration above. This standard dictates that each level best integrates to the level immediately above or below it. For example, companies that have tried to integrate Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications directly into the controls and SCADA systems found on the shop floor will typically discover that the production data will overwhelm their ERP system. Those adhering to the ISA-95 standard will pursue a different integration strategy and instead rely upon a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) or Manufacturing Operations Management solution to manage Levels 0-3. Each level in the ISA-95 model is a critical component to a manufacturer’s Information Technology, or IT architecture.
In the end, industry standards exist to simplify our lives, be it as an end-user or as someone who is working “behind the scenes” in an operations role. The question I pose to you is “If there is an industry recognized standard that already exists, then how can you justify if you are not in compliance?” I am interested in your perspectives or examples of where exceptions are indeed warranted!