he Open Modular Architecture Controls Users Group () and the Instrumentation, Systems, and Automation Society (), announced plans to merge their organizations. The two groups are in the final stages of recently initiated merger talks that would result in OMAC functioning as a subsidiary of ISA. Remaining steps of the merger should be completed in the first half of 2005.
OMAC’s mission, past activities, and future activities align well with those of ISA, say ISA officials, as OMAC’s work with discrete manufacturing companies complements traditional ISA strengths in the process and batch sectors.
“OMAC’s rapid development of guidelines can serve as a valuable first step towards the adoption of ANSI or IEC standards through ISA’s accredited process,” said ISA officials announcing the deal.
The first major objective for a joint OMAC/ISA team formed to finalize details was to prepare a proposal for OMAC's membership in Orlando on February 3rd, wherein a formal vote is expected to gain member endorsement of the Board of Directors' recommendation to merge.
Most major automation suppliers are likely to voice support for the merger. “By merging into ISA, the standards and guidelines developed by OMAC are given strength and validity,” said Mike Wagner, business development manager for the Global OEM team at Rockwell Automation. “As packaging guidelines such as PackMLaretransformed into ISA standards, they will reach further into the plant and allow manufacturers to achieve true integration between discrete and process applications.”
While OMAC has, to this point, focused on packaging applications, merging its work into ISA-SP88 should allow OMAC guidelines to broaden and apply to other discrete applications such as converting or material handling. “For OEMs and suppliers like Rockwell Automation, the merger between OMAC and ISA removes barriers that, in the past, have made it difficult for different parts of a plant to work together,” said Wagner.
According to John Kowal, global marketing manager of OMAC member Elau, even as OMAC leadership conducted their due diligence over the past year, the concept was proving itself. “In the form of a new working group seeking to better integrate processing and packaging, initial discussions took place during the 2004 ARC Forum between members of OMAC Users Group and the World Batch Forum, which champions the ISA S88 and S95 standards.”
In a joint statement of the two groups on January 27 of last year, David Chappell, Technology Leader for Procter & Gamble, noted a convergence of automation technologies and standards, saying, “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. This will result in lower costs, common skills levels and reduced manpower requirements.”
In the same statement, Thinus van Schoor, Automation Manager for SAB Miller,representing the OMAC Packaging Workgroup, said, “In today’s manufacturing environment, the fundamentals of process, batch and discrete automation technologies have more in common than ever. “We need to cut across the different silos and different departments and speak the same language. If we can merge our process and discrete manufacturing operations, we will generate great efficiencies for our corporations.”
The OMAC Users’ Group was formed in 1998, as a result of a 1994 initiative by Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors which created "Requirements of Open, Modular Architecture Controllers for Applications in the Automotive Industry.” The document provided guidelines for a common set of application program interfaces(APIs) for U.S. industry controllers to better address manufacturing needs for the automotive industry.
In 1998, an expanded OMAC Users Group with representatives from automotive, aerospace, chemical, food and consumer products manufacturers created the present structure in which companies would work together to establish a repository of open architecture control requirements and operating experience from users, software developers, hardware builders and industrial machine builders; accelerate convergence of industry and government-developed APIs to one set, satisfying common use requirements; collaborate with European and Japanese user groups in pursuit of a common international API standard; promote open architecture control development among control builders; and derive common solutions for technical and non-technical issues in the development, implementation, and commercialization of open architecture control technologies.
OMAC has been pursuing for some time now the necessity of becoming a legal entity of its own or merging with either ISA or the OPC Foundation. The issue became more critical in 2004 when major funding from the Louisiana Center for Manufacturing Science was discontinued.
Founded in 1945, ISA fosters advancement in the theory, design, manufacture, and use of sensors, instruments, computers, and systems for automation in a wide variety of applications.