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The Open Process Automation Journey Continues

BATCH PROCESSING, CONTINUOUS PROCESSBATCH MANUFACTURING Process

The Open Process Automation Journey Continues

It was just over a year ago that the Open Process Automation Forum officially launched as a vendor-neutral technology consortium. Its mission is to provide a collaborative environment where members can work to create standards for a technology framework from which agile, secure and manageable automation systems can be specified, built, purchased and operated.

This initiative, which began with a major nudge from Exxon Mobil years earlier, is an effort to rally suppliers and end users from a variety of industries around the need to develop an open, process control framework that would supplant the closed, proprietary control systems that stifle innovation and options due to vendor lock-in.

A year ago, the group outlined four key areas that the consortium would tackle, including understanding industry value-chains and business models, developing a standard that will deliver the interoperability and application portability that end-users are seeking, developing a conformance program to make it easy to identify products that comply with the standards created by the forum, and promoting global adoption of the agreed upon standards.

A year later, this past January, they tackled the first deliverable with the publication of the Open Process Automation Business Guide, which outlines the value proposition and business case for the development of the Open Process Automation standard the development of a standard across the process control community would inject more innovation.”
The business guide is built to address common themes across industries, where standard interfaces can enable best-in-class technologies that minimize downtime, improve safety, reduce engineering hours and increase flexibility and speed to market.

The business guide is built to address common themes across industries. It explains how and where standard interfaces can be used to enable best-in-class technologies that minimize downtime, improve safety, reduce engineering hours and increase flexibility and speed to market. “We wanted to set up an environment where all players could look at the business guide and see the roles they play and then translate that into the future,” Tung said during a presentation at the ARC Industry Forum. It’s a future where every player can also prosper, Tung noted in a nod to the potential for new revenue models. “We see a value proposition for all in the future state.”

So, what’s next on the road to the future? According to other presenters at the ARC conference, there will be a technical reference model available in the second quarter of this year. It is not a system architecture, but a technical architecture that shows how components could interact together to build a system. Part two of the technical roadmap includes the configuration of the system so that all of the components understand the role they play. And part three will specify companion specifications designed to give portability of apps.
If you are an end user, this all probably sounds great. But suppliers may be a bit more frightened by the future. However, the developers of this system have said that the technology architecture defines specific interfaces, but there will still be a “black box” to house the vendor’s intellectual property so that they still have something to sell.

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