Missing standards in manufacturing industries

This article describes why standards are still missing in manufacturing environments and what the impacts are.

Isolated applications

Some years ago there was a big movement to implement every possible application needed on plant level in one entire system. The so called MES (refer to this post).

After a lot of bad experiences the idea became obsolete. Of course there were and are still a lot of companies, trying to install such a system.

The learnings from that event were, to better consider using small applications, responsible for only one single domain. This led to other problems. The data was isolated in an application or database. Nobody could access them, except through that application.

Problem dispatching

By and by the producer of these applications started to implement some interfaces. They allowed the access of the data. Everybody defined its own interface structure. It was hard to connect and access the data. For every application a complete new solution had to be found.

They declared that there is an interface now. Good job guys, I’m proud of you!
The problem is that everybody has been building a socket. Nobody cared about the plug.

Sockets: Different standards from different vendors

This is where I started to connect applications to a comprehensive system. Today you find software for almost every need. Buying the appropriate ones and connecting them is often still less expensive, than having monstrous systems that do not entirely match.

Missing standards

In the 21th century – ok sometimes I feel like thrown back to Stone Age; but this might be my personal problem – there really exist standards that identify and structure the type and domain of data.

One of these standards is ISA 95. Of course it does not address nor solve every problem (find more information on this blog). But it is implemented by some known systems, such as SAP.

This is no new standard. But as you might know, in manufacturing industries everything takes some years longer to establish.

There are some similar standards (find a short description here). One of the major problems is that there are some direct alternatives to ISA 95. OAGIS is one of them. Although it does not exclusively address manufacturing industries. Of course it is good to have options. But in this case it means that not every application uses the same structure again.

Hopefully a good standard will be established in the near future. And hopefully it is supported by many software vendors.

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