Rhize Up Podcast: Episode 1 – Reframing Perspective on ISA-95

Rhize Up Podcast

Episode 1 Transcript

David: All right. Let’s go ahead and get this fired off. So welcome to the Rhize Up podcast. My name is David Schultz. I am a Principal Consultant and Solution Architect for Rhize Manufacturing Data Hub. And here today, we’re going to talk about all things manufacturing, but specifically we’re going to get into the ISA-95 standard.

There have been a lot of conversations around that, and my position is that it is not very well understood and that leads to a lot of confusion in its application and can we use it? Is it still relevant? 

And I am joined today by Rene Verleg, who is an ISA-95 expert, guru, whatever word you want to throw in there. For the purposes of today’s discussion, we’re going to keep it very high level and in future episodes, we’ll certainly start getting more into the weeds.

But with that, Rene, could you take a few minutes to introduce yourself and tell everybody who you are?

Rene: Yes. Thanks, David. Nice to meet you all. My name is Rene Verleg and I’ve worked now in manufacturing for about 17 years, mainly focused on the MES/MOM (Manufacturing Execution System/Manufacturing Operations Management) domain.

I’ve implemented a lot of MES solutions for various industries and also very large multi-site projects. I’ve done it in the role of a software engineer and team lead in many different phases.

And almost all of these projects were with the ISA-95 standard there as a guiding principle. So yeah, a lot of experience in that. Right now I’m working for Rhize as an MES/MOM consultant and mainly focus on getting our requirements mapped to source data to the device in the ISA-95 model.

David: Well, I’m glad you’re here. Looking forward to really understanding more about the ISA-95 standard. 

But we would be remiss when we start talking about standards if we couldn’t get to an XKCD Cartoon. He seems to have a cartoon for just about everything IT related.

So here’s the current situation. There are 14 competing standards and you get two people together to say, that’s ridiculous. We should develop one universal standard for it. And eventually, there are now 15 competing standards.

I think you can take a look at a lot of standards out there and say, yup, that’s pretty much the case. So, with that, let’s get into ISA-95. And can you provide a little background of, you know, what is the ISA-95 standard and why was it created? Why was it developed, What was the intent?

The Intent Behind the ISA-95 Standard

Rene: The ISA-95 standard is really focused on manufacturing IT. And so it’s focused on business systems on level four, but also all down to the factory systems at the control level. 

David: Real fast, let’s make sure we’re defining terms. So you said level four. What do you mean by level four?

The ISA-95 Framework layers

Rene: Yeah, that’s more the business system meaning systems like an ERP system, CRM system, and things like financial systems outside the factory.

David: And I assume that since there is level four, there’s probably a level three or two and a one. Can you provide just a quick overview of what those are?

Rene: Yeah, I can show you a picture.

This is an overview of the different levels. And like I said, Level 4, for example, is ERP (enterprise resource planning), but there are multiple systems that are in that level.

Level 3 is MOMS, which is the manufacturing operations management system, and that is, for example, MES system or an execution system, but it can also be a maintenance management system or warehouse management system. All kinds of different solutions, but it’s really focused on the factory. It’s a both the process and control level, and that’s more than Level 2 and Level 1.

At Level 2, you can think about a SCADA application where you monitor your factory, where you can control the automated processes. 

Then the PLC (at Level 1) is really executing, so it’s really to the program and logical controller. It does all the steps between in the automation. So it’s connected to sensors, connected to all kinds of devices, and it’s reading and writing the logic at the right moment.

On the far right column, you can see, Level One operates on a different time span. The PLC is really milliseconds or seconds. If you go up the SCADA (Level 2), it’s more like minutes, maybe hours. The MES/MOM (Level 3) that’s more like shifts or hours or minutes, could be days. And then the business system (Level 4) is also a bit higher up.

David: Okay, perfect. So if I understand what you’re saying, the whole intent of ISA-95 was to help us understand how we integrate these various systems.

As I’ve looked at the standard itself, I think there’s currently eight parts soon to be nine. Can we just talk a little bit about maybe at least the first four?

I think those seem to be the ones that are most relevant, or at least certainly for the purposes of our conversation. So you can find a little insight of what’s there and why people should take a look at it.

First Four Parts of ISA-95–The Exchange of Information

Let’s discuss the whole interaction, the exchange of information between the different systems. 

So starting with Level 4 and that Level 3. Part 1 is really a general introduction. It’s a lot about terminology, about the language, about the scope. That part is a great introduction. 

Then the Part 3, let’s skip 2 and go to 3. That’s more on functional level. So it’s really about, okay, what are the activities in your company and how can we make a general model on that’s based on the different domains? So you have, for example, production, maintenance, inventory, and quality. There are all kinds of activities in those four domains. 

Then Part 2 and Part 4, that’s more about the real data model. So the objects used for exchange as well. But two is really focused on the Level 4 exchangement to Level 3 and vice versa. Part 4 is more focused on between Level 3 systems and also between Level 3 and Level 2.

David: Yeah. I think amongst all eight soon to be nine parts there’s well over a thousand pages that are in there. You know, for the average bear, it almost seems like, well, this is really ominous. I can understand why people may not use it. So, I mean how are people actually using it currently? What have you seen in practice using that, using the standard?

Practical Use of the ISA-95 Standard

Rene: Yeah, it’s used in very different ways, actually. At a certain moment, there were more and more MES solutions that were really focusing on ISA-95, especially on how to connect to an ERP system. And then other solutions said ‘we are compatible with ISA-95.’ So they were using the same terminology, trying to use the same data model, but that’s pretty hard. It’s fairly normalized.

And now you see it, it’s also used in documentation, for example. So, when you write your user requirements specification, it’s already used in ISA-95. Then also when you do your functional design, it will be used all through the documentation and then also through development. So you see it used more and more.

A lot of people, also customers, more and more customers, are also understanding it already. We meet customers with different levels of expertise, but it is mainly used to get the same terminology and to get talking the same language.

David: So it’s really just getting everybody on the same page to make sure we’re using the words correctly, and we’re passing the information back and forth in a way that we have all agreed. ‘Yes, this is how all this information will be exchanged.’ 

So, you know, I’ve heard recently that the ISA-95 standard, it’s old, it’s antiquated, that it really doesn’t apply. Just curious your thoughts, comments, on that.

Rene: My opinion, it’s very valuable because, yes, I’m talking about documentation, about language, but also to store the data model. 

It’s always a challenge that you get a solution. You get requirements for a certain project. And it’s never fitting. Because the solution is built without any flexibility, but you always need more.

And that’s where I think the ISA-95 is really good. It’s very flexible, but it’s also pretty abstract sometimes. It helps in really setting a starting point, but then it’s expandable. For example, within ISA-95, there are as many properties as you want and as many times as you want. So, you can really extend that whole model. It’s a very flexible way of storing data and of designing your applications. For me, it really helps in the design.

David: Going back to the robustness. It’s certainly not a small standard relative to some others. I mean, is this more appropriate for large or small organizations or is there really a guideline as far as that goes?

Who is ISA-95 For?

Rene: I don’t think there’s a real guideline on it. I would say it’s mostly for the bigger companies, but that’s more because they took the investment to get the people aligned and educated on this standard.

David: So smaller organizations can certainly use it. It’s just what we have seen is, it’s the larger ones that have it only because they’re potentially using systems that might utilize the standards. Is that a fair way to characterize that?

Rene: Yep. Yep.

David: Okay, perfect. So going back to the application, is it something where if you’re going to apply the standard, is it an all or none where you either have to use all of it or can you use bits and parts? And if you’re going to use bits and parts, what do you think are the most critical bits and parts to use out of that?

Implementing ISA-95

Rene: It’s a bit dependent on, also, the solution, but looking at the Data Hub with Rhize, we really did use cases specifically. So just starting with, for example, receiving orders, getting some master data in and then you get your actual production done–your consumptions, your productions –that’s often where we’re starting and then you get at more and more functionality.

So, yeah, it’s really per use case, you could start using it.

And think about the bigger picture. That’s always difficult. You can start by use case but at the beginning you have to start by thinking about the whole company like, okay, how should I do this? And then you can start with a smaller piece.

David: Yeah, I mean, that seems very similar to how conversations as far as manufacturing systems in general go. Should we start with the back end or should we start with the front end? What I mean by that is, should we start with how people are going to use it or should we start with getting the back end data ready to go so that it has a lot more flexibility on the front end?

Of course, I’m in the latter camp. We start with the back end and then do the front end. It seems in this case we’re kind of doing a little bit of both. Yes, there is the standard, but let’s work on the use case and then apply that use case to the standard. Is that fair?

Rene: Yeah for me it’s really important to start with the back end. I’ve seen solutions where they also put the whole ISA-95 terminology in the front end. So that’s very bad because it’s so normalized, it’s very difficult to use for a user. So, in my opinion, it should only be back end.

So to store the data, to get your functionality right, to get your business logic first. But then to show all that on the front end, in my opinion, it’s best to have a custom project.

David: In many ways we’re saying the same thing. If the back end becomes ‘this is how you’ve taken the use case, you’ve applied that data schema utilizing the ISA-95 structure,’ then however the client and the person wants to visualize it, that’s okay.

Visualize it how you want because all the data that you will want is already available. And you know how to ask it the right questions. 

Rene: Yeah. Yeah.

David: So, since we’re talking about ISA-95, I thought it’d be a great segue to actually take a look at some of those parts in a very easy to understand, digestible way to help unpack ISA-95 at a very high level.

I believe there’s a diagram that you have that demonstrates what some of those interactions are and what are some of the parts of that particular standard. So, we get into the resource models, get into some of the information models. So let’s get into that.

ISA-95 Visual Overview–The Interaction Between Hierarchy Levels and Parts of the Standard

Rene: So we’ll share this overview.

This is what I built myself based on what I read in ISA-95, just to give a very high level overview.

It’s also oversimplifying it, I would say. A lot of connections are not there, but I think it’s a good picture to start explaining how I see things. 

You have different parts. Starting with Part 2 which is really describing the exchange between Level 3 and Level 4. So that’s like what I put in the upper half, and Part 4, that’s like the lower half.

And what you see in the middle is the resource models. The resource definition is described in Part 2, but it’s actually sort of shared definitions. So, you have your definitions about material, you have your definitions about personnel, about physical assets, and role-based equipment. That’s what we call resources, and that’s shared, so it’s linked to almost every object on the screen.

It’s linked to your plant orders. It’s linked to your actual produced data. It’s linked to your capabilities. It’s linked to all the other stuff this is linked to and used to. So, that’s what we call master data and it needs to be defined from which system will this be? Which system is the lead for what?

David: So, in typical manufacturing as I describe it to people… ‘I’m taking raw goods, I’m adding in energy, I’m adding in maybe additional materials, I’m adding in some labor.’ It looks like the resource models are doing something very similar where I have materials that I’m working with–both incoming materials and produced materials. There are people that are involved in that, whether they’re line operators or technicians or supervisors. 

And I think the equipment is more like in the Part 2 of the hierarchy structure. And then there’s also these asset definitions. So, can you describe a little bit the difference between role-based equipment and a physical asset?

Rene: Yeah, the role-based equipment was a part of the early versions of the standard. At that point it was only equipment–referring to which physical equipment you need in your process.

So, for example, it could be a mixer. Then they added the physical asset when they were more into maintenance because the physical asset is really something that often is part of a role-based equipment, but it’s specific to the physical form of it. If you take the example of a mixer, then the agitator in the mixer could be, for example, a physical asset with a serial number, and it’s part of ‘mixer 1.’ But maybe you want to use ‘mixer 1’ in your order to plan on the mixer. In the end, you also produce something on that mixer. 

So that’s where you relay to when you, then, for example, with maintenance, you replace your agitator, then you should check, okay, ‘does this have the same capabilities or the same capacity?’

If that’s all the same, then your role-based equipment could be the same. That’s still the mixer, but it has a different agitator. So I think you can say ‘okay the equipment is really the link to the capabilities of something that will be linked to all the other models and the physical assets. 

David: Yeah, that’s great. I understand that better. So thank you for explaining that because that helps me at least digest the differences between the equipment and the asset. So, now that we have the resources that are defined, you say those all get used throughout the rest of the diagram here.

So maybe we should start with that Part 2 content of, you know, just walking either left or right or however you think it makes the most sense to understand what’s happening here. 

Rene: I think the next step is to discuss the process segments. So process segments are telling something about a process in your factory. So for example, in a bakery, you can say,  ‘bake a cake,’ and that could be a process segment. 

Then if you go to Operation Definition and Operations Segment, that’s also about how it should be performed. This is on Level 4 and Part 2. So you’re going to have an operation definition, with an operation segment that’s more specific, telling you how to bake a cake.

It can also be how to bake a chocolate cake, for example. So then it’s really specified. So that could even then be in operation definition with operation segments in common, for example, an ERP system or from a PLM system.

David: Yeah, the way I’ve understood process segments–they’re like the smallest unit of work. They’re considered a template, and there’ll be multiple process segments.

You know, using your cake mixing example—there’s the mixing of the cake, there’s the baking of the cake, there’s the packaging of the cake. And so those may be processed segments, but then the operations definition would be specific instances of ‘we’re going to make chocolate cake on line one and, and Bob, our operator, is going to handle that.’

And so now that’s a specific use of all those process segments. Is that a good way to understand that?

Baking a Cake with ISA-95

Rene: Yeah that’s right. That’s one of the things where ISA-95 is so flexible. You could say on the process segments, you always need this type of equipment for example. So on all the mixing process segments, you could already say you need the type of equipment that can mix and you can also do that on the operations segment.

So then it’s decided at that level you need this type of mixer, but you can even do it at your operation schedule level. And so your operation schedule is more about your plant order—that’s what we call it often—And it’s also scheduled on time. And today you can actually say, ‘okay, this process segment and this operation segment, but now we want to produce this much of a quantity of this product at a certain time.

So then you’re making or you’re receiving an operation request saying, ‘I want to have that type of product of a cake. I want to have that baked or mixed at that moment and this is the quantity.’ So that’s how it’s all linked to each other. And that operation segment and also the segment requirements, that’s then all linked to those resources. That’s where it’s going to go.

David: Ah, gotcha. 

Okay. So the making of the chocolate cake on line one, we have it involve the operator that we’re going to schedule that. So, let’s make that happen at 9:00 on Tuesday. Here’s all the operations requested. So this is what I’d like to have ready to go, Mr. Operator. And then in terms of the requirements, those segment requirements, these are the things you’re going to need.

It’s like there’s your sous chef getting everything ready to go for you, and that’s all mapped back to these—the material, the personnel, all the other role-based equipment, and the assets. All right, so we’re getting ready to go or baking a cake. Then what happens?

Rene: Yeah. So then you can say, okay, the work schedule and the work request and the job order, that’s Part 4, and that’s more the Level 3 to Level 3 communication or exchange, or it can also go to Level 2.

That’s more like a deeper level of date. So you could say, ‘okay, I want the operation request saying I want this many or quantity of this product, and I want to have it done before that date. Then at the work request, there you could go a level deeper. 

You could say, ‘okay, I need to make five bunches out of that. I need this specific equipment, this operator.’ So you can really specify it out in more detail. What you often see in practice is that you get an operation schedule from an ERP system, for example. And then at the MES level, Level 3, there you do detailed scheduling. So they could say, ‘okay, but now I’m going to split this out and multiple job orders and each job order will be run on a specific piece of equipment or production line.’

David: Gotcha. So the operations request would be, ‘I need 100 chocolate cakes,’ but the actual work request would be ‘I need 20 chocolate cakes, but we’re going to spread that over five batches.’ And those batches could get spread across whatever their overall schedule looks like. Is that right?

Rene: Yeah. Yeah, they could. It could show a different picture to make that a bit more clearer.

It’s going from the standards. So here you have, for example, the operation schedule, the black box that says, okay, this is the quantity of a certain product and the one I want to have done at that moment. Then, here, you see what it means for the production line. We need to do this for this production line, we need to do this for this production line or for the work centers.

This means you need to do some work and then together all those works will deliver your operation schedule. And that’s where you see that deeper level of detail. So this is like what we see is a work request and then each block inside that could be done in a job order.

David: Okay. All right. So now we’ve made all these requests. Here’s everything we need to have happen. It looks like that bright side in the blue and the purple. That’s what happened. Did you want to spend some time there in that work directive capability model?

Rene: Yeah, the work directive. That’s more like the Level 3 of how to be performed.

And so this can also give  the steps of what needs to be done. It can also be linked to a workflow specification. So that’s where you can exactly decide or model which steps should be taken after each other and the whole route of steps that could be executed. And this can then be linked to job orders and also to the process segment in the middle.

David: So, people will talk about the work instructions. Is that what that master directive workflow specification is talking about?

Rene: Not exactly, but it could be linked to it. 

And thinking about the capabilities, to be honest, in practice, we’re not using this as much at the moment, but this can tell you all about what’s available in your factory.

So you could say, ‘okay, what type of equipment is available,’ but also for how many hours a day. Or for example, the capacity of a certain mixer. How big is that mixer? So that means how many liters can we mix per day? That kind of data we can cover in here. When you model that completely out, then you can really do things like detail scheduling, or with contamination matrixes, you can schedule that on a deeper level in better detail.

Then going to the right, that’s the response side. So that’s really the actual work that is done. And of course we want to report back what is done and how it was done. So starting at the Level 3, this is a direct response to the job orders. You can have a job response. This will say, ‘okay, this material was consumed,’ for example, ‘this material was produced, this person was involved, this equipment was used.’ It can be equipment type. It can be the equipment itself.

The physical assets, same way. So everything comes out together. What was actually used and what was actually produced. Also, for example, about parameters. So at the job order level, you can have parameters as well. So you can say, ‘okay, this combination we want to have produced in this way, but we also want to use these kinds of parameters.’ It can be a parameter specific for an equipment, or it can be a general parameter.

Then at the job response side—there we get back to actual used parameters. So in the end you can use the left side of this and compare it to the right side. This was the target and this was actually produced and you can compare of course.

David: Okay, so this is what I asked to be produced. This is how we actually produced it based on, ‘did we finish it on time?’

What are some of those KPI? So I imagine that the right side is what people are mostly interested in, because I want to have my big pretty manufacturing dashboard that tells me, how am I doing today? Is that right?

Rene: Yeah. So this is what you mostly see at your actual site and what people are most interested in. But if you want, for example, your KPIs and then you also need your targets. So then you also need the left side.

And going up to the Level 4, that’s more like, again, that same level of detail. Then you could say, ‘okay, we aggregate or we want to give a response back, for example, to ERP.’ Then you can say, ‘okay, all these work responses or job responses are going back into one big segment response or one big operations response.’ And that could be sent back to other Level 4 systems.

David: Okay. So the job work response, work performance, that’s around those 20 cakes we’re doing in a batch at a time. But the segments response, operations response, operations performance, that’s speaking to the overall 100 cakes that the Level 4 system asked for operations to produce.

Rene: Yeah, that’s also related to the operations schedule and requests is then also related to the operation response, for example.

David: I mean, this to me provides the level of detail that I think we would want to get into today. I think there’s probably a lot more we can certainly get deeper in that. You mentioned parameters earlier, I think that’s something we want to spend some time on in a future podcast. So, if that’s something that’s of interest to the audience, then come back and we’ll have that video here in the future.

How to Begin Learning ISA-95

And Rene, we’ll certainly get into the weeds on that, but since we’ve just provided a real high level overview here, you know, the last piece I want to discuss is, you know, that Standard is 1000 pages, and I think that can be ominous. But certainly, we’re not the first people to actually learn how to use the standard.

So if somebody were to set out to learn ISA-95 and more importantly apply ISA-95, what are some of the resources? What are the places they can go to learn about it?

Rene: There are all types of courses that I have seen. That’s mostly related to where I live. So I don’t know internationally what’s the best place to go. I think it’s because it’s a very abstract model. If you just start reading it’s very difficult to understand. And I think it’s really good to have a factory in mind or maybe a virtual factory as we are using, for example, the bakery. And that really makes it come alive.

There are also special courses to get ISA-95 in practice. Yeah, I think it would be good if, for example, from a Rhize perspective, if we have a demo that people can play with and they can really see this and we have an API that you can request all of those objects. That you can really make your own model, your own little factory, simple factory, and then you can start modeling more and more and more as you learn. I think that would be the best.

David: It sounds like it’s not a book or a standard is not something you would just say read. You digest it, you apply it.

And really the best way to learn the Standard, if I understand what you’re saying, is you really need to have a hands on application. Let’s call it a sandbox environment where you can actually get in and start working with some of these things and understand what they look like.

Rene: Yep. And it’s also good to mention I think that ISA-95 is not fixed, but it’s all open for discussion and interpretation.

So, for us within Rhize, with the different ISA-95 specialists we’re still discussing daily or weekly about how ‘I would do it like this or I would do it like that.’ Everybody has his own opinion. Of course there is a standard with fixed rules, but because it’s so flexible, so normalized, per customer you need to decide, ‘okay, this will be the data model we’re going to use.’

David: Yeah. I think the last revision at least of Part 2 was 2018. I think there was a prior one to that in 2013. So I guess it’s fair to say the standard changes with the times. So, earlier I asked you, does it still apply today? Well yes, because the standard today was not the standard as it existed when it was first created. So that’s great. 

Shameless plug here. You know, you talk about the hands on application. We are in the process of developing a training curriculum that will provide an overview from beginning to end of all parts of the standards that will be available to people. And then we’ll also have a sandbox for people to work in. Of course, we’re going to use our Rhize Manufacturing Data Hub as the back end for all of that because the schema of that database applies and encapsulates the ISA-95 standard. So all of those equipments, all those resource definitions that we talked about, those are all going to be there. And as far as applying the standard and the operations requests and the job responses, all that context is going to be there as well. So anything more that you’d like to add before we sign off here, Rene?

Rene: No, I think we touched upon the very high level introduction and would be good to have some more going into depth.

David: Yeah, absolutely. So stay tuned for more episodes of the podcast. As Rene and I mentioned, we’re going to get into a little more depth on the ISA-95 standard. Of course, there’s many other topics as well. Stay tuned for information around the training as well. We’re excited to be launching that shortly.

So thank you everybody for your time and look forward to seeing you on our next podcast.