August 2008

Batch names its terms in packaging report

By Dennis Brandl and David Bauman

While you might associate ISA88 standards with recipes and batch processing, over half the implementation of the ISA88 standard is outside batch, and much of it is in the packaging area. In fact, the ISA88 committee on batch control just approved a new technical report on machine and unit states. The report incorporates the OMAC packaging workgroup's packaging machine language (PackML) and PackTags documents with the industry standard ISA88 terminology.

The report should become an important part of the ISA88 standard, significantly reducing system integration time and costs for dedicated process and packaging equipment. It should also enable the packaging flexibility today's manufacturers require.

There is some history of using the ISA88 model in the packaging industry. But ISA88 is really much more about flexible manufacturing than about batch. In modern packaging equipment, you can control the options and speeds based on what product you are making. That is where the concept of ISA88 recipes and flexible manufacturing really applies.

In the packaging world, machines that were once mechanically connected became electronically connected so they all ran off individual motors. Each individual machine could be individually configured. That meant you could put together these lines in a matter of days instead of months. Unfortunately the software to control it could take months of integration time. The technical report reduces the amount of time to integrate these things together down to days. The software is no longer the limiting factor.


The OMAC PackML group developed the document as their guidance document and then converted into an ISA88 technical report-a major step in moving PackML and PackTags from an OMAC guideline to part of the ANSI/ISA88 set of standards. PackML contains a flexible state model for how a machine operates. OMAC modeled the PackML guidelines after the ISA88 standards.

A tag set is a standard name for OPC tags that control a machine's start, stop, and download parameters. Packaging machines are specific-purpose type machines, such as packaging a bag or filler or labeler. PackTags describe a comprehensive set of naming convention guidelines for communications between production machinery and support systems, such as MES and HMI. PackML and PackTags along with industry communication standards enable connect-and-pack, plug-and-play packaging machines.

End users see benefits

The adoption of this standard promotes the use of structure and concepts defined in ISA88 into other areas of manufacturing. In this case, the down stream areas-finishing and packaging areas. End users have started to implement packaging systems using PackML and PackTags, which simplifies the integration cost since all systems are implemented using a common language. Users also benefit from lower training costs because they implement the machines using a common approach.

This common approach to development also helps machine builders reduce engineering time and accelerate startup time for new machines. In many cases, the technology providers will provide white papers or example code of how to implement PackML and PackTags on their platform.

"Hopefully more OEM's worldwide will adopt this as their machine standard," said Rob Aleksa, P&G's corporate engineering section head. "P&G is in the process of rolling out PackML within the various business units. Some business units (e.g. beauty care) are already including PackML requirements in their OEM specifications."


Dennis Brandl is chairman of the ISA88 committee and president of BR&L Consulting in Cary, N.C. E-mail him at David Bauman is technical director of OMAC in Ft. Wright, Ky. E-mail him at

Standardizing interface analyzers

An analyzer device integration (ADI) working group, operating under the umbrella of the OPC Foundation and composed of end-users, system integrators and instrument vendors representing process analytical technology (PAT) and laboratory industries, is developing an information model for analyzer devices to allow plug-and-play multivendor interoperability. The group is developing a common method for data exchange and an analyzer data model for process and laboratory analyzers.

Although the plan is quite separate from PackML, the ISA88 committee plans to use the pack tags and ISA88 technical report state model to also control these kinds of devices. So they all tie together and provide users a standard way to talk to dedicated purpose machines. Packaging is one kind, analyzers are another.

The model will serve as a logical extension of the OPC UA specification which is being adopted as the basis for the ADI standard. Some of the reasons for this are that it is a platform neutral standard. You can implement analyzer interfaces on any operating system or embed them in any networked device. It supports complex data types and object models and its design allows high-speed data transfers using efficient binary protocols. It also has broad industry support beyond just process automation and is also supporting other industry standards such as ISA95, ISA88, EDDL, MIMOSA, and OAGiS.

The current plan is to release the first draft of the ADI specification in December 2008. For more information, contact Voytek Janisz at