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Can ISA95 Standards Apply to Industry 4.0?

ISA95, a series of standards that defines enterprise and control system integrations for manufacturers, is a product of the mid-1990s. The International Society of Automation (ISA), the series' namesake, developed ISA95 in a multi-part effort to:

  • Define in detail an abstract model of the enterprise, including manufacturing control functions and business functions, and its information exchange
  • Establish common terminology for the description and understanding of enterprise, including manufacturing control functions and business process functions, and its information exchange
  • Define electronic information exchange between the manufacturing control functions and other enterprise functions including data models and exchange definitions

The series originated in the era of Industry 3.0, when the use of computers was expanding into a wide variety of industries.

Soon, as the power of computing continued to accelerate and as various technologies matured, Industry 4.0 was born. Industry 4.0 has created opportunities for increased productivity and effectiveness across leadership, people, process, and materials.

ISA95 arose during Industry 3.0, but in my personal opinion, Industry 4.0 doesn't challenge ISA95. Rather, Industry 4.0 is a powerful tool that can take ISA95 into new areas by leveraging its structure, its definitions, and its teachings. ISA95 heavily references people, process, materials, and so on. These are the core concerns of industrial operations, and they have not changed.

One can always learn from the past, so let's take the time to review the ISA95 approach and methodology so we can use it to implement new approaches.

In ISA95, the outline of models in the standard includes:

  • Domain descriptions
  • Functions in domains
  • Finding the functions of interest
  • Information flows of interest
  • Categories of information
  • Information descriptions

Whether you look at these from a product perspective, service perspective, or an owner perspective, I don’t see them changing for Industry 4.0. The concepts, methods, and approaches that form ISA95 are applicable to Industry 4.0.

Let’s look at a simple scenario to help understand how the ISA95 functional hierarchy may help one choose the layer to implement Industry 4.0or perhaps I could say, to take full advantage of the power of modern computing.

Imagine that Company X wants to understand on the trends of consumption across different seasons, and to learn if it is worthwhile to produce a greater quantity of a product in a particular season.

A goal like this is more defined at the enterprise level, and it is worth collecting the data from different layers and putting it on Layer 4 or the cloud. The existing ISA95 structure can be used to understand from where each bit of data needs to be pulled and through which security gates it needs to pass. Likewise, something like analogy detection can also stick to the appropriate layer.

There are several more aspects of ISA95 that can also help one decide where to use the power of computing.

Let's consider a case of equipment maintenance and dashboards. Here, one can have sensors at Level 0 that help provide analysis and integration to the cloud, and at the same time, one can look at Level 3 for several reasons to push data to cloud. Of course, one also has to look at the ROI of actually utilizing Level 0 or Level 3 for these purposes.

Depending on your organizational strategy and enterprise architecture, one needs to choose to implement things in part(s) across layer(s) or take the information to the cloud and make the possibilities endless there.

A simple way to start would be by assessing the enterprise's digital maturity. It is mostly recommended to have the right digital baseline before moving to Industry 4.0 for the best cost effectiveness. Otherwise, one may be spending a lot for something trivial. After all, one may be able to define and implement the right functions at each layer using existing products and services.

Use design thinking in your discovery phase to move through data analytics, simulations, and other possibilities to aid your organization's strategy and goals. As the potential of Industry 4.0 is endless and constantly evolving, it is worthwhile to have a playground to support exploration. The cloud works best for this, as well as for other purposes.

All in all, ISA95 does give one a structure to drive Industry 4.0 forward in both a business and data context. Both functional and physical architecture provide some low-hanging fruit as starting points.

The outline of models mentioned above, as well as other definitions and approaches from in ISA95, can help form an organization's approach to Industry 4.0. The trick lies in identifying the domains, functions of interest, and finally the right talent to turn these concepts into insights and actions.

Also, remember to not count tricks and tactics as strategy! This is an iterative process over an X-year development plan.


The views expressed by the author are his own, and are not intended to reflect the official viewpoint of ISA in any way.

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About the Author

Ranjan Sharma is an ISA95 layer enthusiast. He has had the opportunity to serve all the layers in various capacities on technical and functional fronts. The focus and exposure vary with respect to each layer. He enjoys following the growth and diversification that is coming along with Industry 4.0 and the impact it has on the layers. Ranjan is an ISA member, and he has served at various prestigious companies like Accenture, CTS, TCS, Alfa Laval, and start-ups.


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