What Is ISA-95? Manufacturing Data & the Importance of a Single Ontology

Unified manufacturing data is a ‘Holy Grail’ of sorts for the modern manufacturer. But enabling this kind of enterprise-wide change requires a standard schema, or ontology, that helps everything speak the same language. In this article, we explain the importance of standardization and why ISA-95 is the most practical solution for it.

Data silos have plagued manufacturing execution systems (MES) and continuous improvement for as long as MES platforms have existed. To work around the problem, IT departments have relied on droves of database administrators and programmers writing mountains of code to ensure the data going in complies with business rules.

Common silos in manufacturing:

  • ERP
  • Time Series
  • MRP
  • Warehousing
  • Quality
  • Downtime Tracking
  • Recipe Management and Execution

When MES data is spread out across silos and then aggregated for making decisions or informing actions, two things happen: 

  1. The cost of ensuring data quality goes up dramatically.
  2. The risk of using bad data increases with each disparate data set that is used.


Why a Single Ontology Makes Sense

Without a single ontology at the center of that data, data governance will always fall short of desired outcomes. By ‘ontology,’ we mean a formal specification of the conceptual knowledge in a domain. An ontology plays the most vital role in information exchange and in capturing the background knowledge of a domain that could be used for deductions, inquiry and answers. Ontology is also the foundation for using a manufacturing data hub as the basis of proper continuous improvement and data science in manufacturing.

The good news is that an ontology that meets the above requirements already exists: ISA-95.

What Is ISA-95?

ISA-95, or ANSI/ISA-95, is a set of international standards developed to integrate enterprise and control systems in manufacturing and related industries. It defines a hierarchical model for manufacturing operations and provides guidelines for data exchange between different levels of an enterprise to enhance efficiency, interoperability, and communication within industrial automation and control systems.

The primary focus of ISA-95 is to standardize the interface between the business and manufacturing systems within an organization. It addresses the integration of activities and data related to production, maintenance, quality, inventory management, and more. The goal is to enable seamless communication and information exchange between enterprise-level systems (e.g., Enterprise Resource Planning, or ERP, systems) and control systems (e.g., Distributed Control Systems, or DCS) used in manufacturing and automation.

ISA-95’s Essential Features

ISA-95 has gained broad adoption in manufacturing, helping organizations improve operational efficiency, reduce integration costs, and enhance overall production management. Here are its most common aspects.

Data Modeling

ISA-95 defines a standard set of data models and object models for manufacturing operations, making it easier to exchange data between systems.

Information Exchange

It defines standard messages and data structures for information exchange between enterprise and control systems, reducing the need for custom interfaces.

Hierarchical Structure

ISA-95 introduces a hierarchical model that divides manufacturing operations into different levels, from the enterprise level (Level 4) down to the control level (Level 0). This model helps in organizing and standardizing data exchange between different levels of the organization.

Business Process Modeling

It encourages the use of Business Process Models (B2MML – Business to Manufacturing Markup Language) to describe manufacturing processes and related data.

Standard Terminology

ISA-95 establishes a common set of terminology and concepts to facilitate communication and understanding between different teams and departments.

Integration with Other Standards

It is designed to complement and work in conjunction with other industry standards, such as OPC (OLE for Process Control), ANSI/ISA-88 (Batch Control), and ANSI/ISA-99 (Industrial Automation and Control Systems Security).

10 Advantages for Using ISA-95 as a Core Ontology

There are several advantages for global manufacturers in using ISA-95 as the core ontology of a data structure. 


ISA-95 solves the most pressing problem faced by existing MES users – data governance and quality. One ontology means one schema, which means a single “version of the truth.” It provides a common framework and standardized terminology, making it easier for different systems and devices in a manufacturing environment to communicate and exchange data seamlessly. This reduces the need for custom interfaces and integration efforts, resulting in better interoperability.

Data Consistency

Standardizing manufacturing data using ISA-95 ensures consistency in how data is defined, represented, and used across different systems and organizational levels. This consistency minimizes errors and data discrepancies, leading to more reliable and accurate information.

Reduced Integration Costs

ISA-95 simplifies the integration of manufacturing systems with enterprise-level systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES). With predefined data models and message structures, integration efforts become more straightforward and cost-effective.

Improved Visibility

By implementing ISA-95, manufacturers gain a clearer and more comprehensive view of their manufacturing operations. This improved visibility allows for better monitoring and management of production processes, equipment, and resources.

Faster Decision-Making

When properly implemented using a manufacturing data hub, standardized manufacturing data enables faster decision-making by providing real-time and historical data that is consistent and readily available. This empowers organizations to respond more effectively to production issues, quality control, and demand changes.

Enhanced Scalability

As manufacturing operations grow and evolve, ISA-95 provides a scalable framework for managing data and processes. Manufacturers can adapt to changing requirements and expand their operations with greater ease.

Regulatory Compliance

Many industries have specific regulations and standards that must be adhered to. ISA-95 can help in achieving regulatory compliance by ensuring that data related to production processes and product quality is accurately captured and reported.

Better Performance Monitoring

In conjunction with ISO 22400, ISA-95 supports the collection of performance data, including key performance indicators (KPIs), which can be used to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of manufacturing processes. This data can help organizations identify areas for improvement.

Simplified Maintenance and Quality Management

ISA-95 aids in managing maintenance activities and quality control processes by providing a standardized way to track equipment maintenance schedules and product quality metrics.

Integration with Other Standards

ISA-95 is designed to work in conjunction with other industry standards, allowing manufacturers to build upon existing technologies and best practices while benefiting from the advantages of standardization.


Adopting ISA-95 as the core ontology for your manufacturing data can lead to increased efficiency, cost savings, and improved data quality in manufacturing operations. It offers a standardized approach to data exchange and communication, opening the door to benefits around interoperability and consistency across their systems and processes.

At Rhize, we recognized the ISA-95 standard accounts for the capabilities of a manufacturing knowledge graph. To that end, it contains standard definitions for every known relationship of manufacturing entities and processes. This, alone, makes the Rhize Manufacturing Data Hub unique and worth implementation for global manufacturers.