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OMAC, WBF cooperate to improve productivity

The World Batch Forum (WBF) and the Open Modular Architecture Controls (OMAC) Users Group announced at the recent ARC Forum meeting that they're exploring cooperative activities that will lead to higher manufacturing productivity for their member companies. Leaders of the two groups report that leveraging commonalities between the organizations' existing bodies of work has the potential to greatly streamline manufacturing systems integration, training and manpower productivity. World Batch Forum is a nonprofit, professional organization established in 1994 to promote the exchange of information related to the management, operation and automation of batch process manufacturing.

WBF, through the ISA, and the OMAC Users Group, through its guidelines, have been working in parallel to define standardized models and naming conventions for batch and discrete processes. They say their next step is to identify and use what they have in common and then increase the commonality of language, content and structure across the total process value chain.

Their joint initiative will kick off at WBF's meeting May 16-19, 2004, in Chicago. WBF and OMAC will hold a working session to coordinate development and implementation of ISA's SP88 and SP95 standards with OMAC's SP88-derived PackML state model and related guidelines across continuous, batch and discrete processes. Interested manufacturing, automation and business leaders are invited to participate in the groups' first working session.

David Chappell, WBF's representative and a Procter & Gamble technology leader, says a convergence of automation technologies and standards is occurring. "We believe that a consistent use of standards will allow different people within different operations at the same company to apply automation technologies in the same ways," he says. "This will result in lower costs, common skills levels and reduced manpower requirements."

Thinus van Schoor, SAB Miller's automation manager and executive committee member of OMAC's Packaging Workgroup, adds that most process companies also have a discrete side, such as in packaging. "In today's manufacturing environment, the fundamentals of process, batch and discrete automation technologies have more in common than ever," he explains. "The increasing need for manufacturing agility demands that we cut across the different silos and departments, speak the same language, and model processes in the same way. If we can merge our process and discrete manufacturing operations, we will generate great efficiencies for our corporations."

Chappell adds, "We're addressing the structural silos imposed by current thinking and technology, which support and propagate the cultural and artificial silos in companies. Our first step must be to focus on our similarities, not on our differences."

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