March 2008

Factory, discrete agendas for wireless

By Ellen Fussell Policastro

It seems official-ISA is making wireless waves in the discrete and factory automation world. An ISA100 user survey about wireless in factory and discrete automation revealed user companies want to use wireless to build automated production machines, as well as for assembly lines and material conveyors. The consensus was it is inconvenient or impractical to run wires for sensor I/O. Eliminating high flexure forces associated with cables is a high priority for manufacturers.
User perspectives came from Procter & Gamble, General Motors, and Ford about how their environments are different from what is currently covered in ISA100.11a. High-speed production lines involve quite a few types of sensors beyond the process sensors covered by the standard, such as pressure, flow, and temperature.

Jim Reizner of Procter & Gamble and Mark O'Hearne of Millennial Net will lead a new wireless interest group focusing on factory automation, discrete parts manufacturing, high-speed machines, and other non-process applications. The purpose of the group is to explore opportunities and requirements distinctly different from those currently under consideration in ISA100 working groups. The group will survey the market to define a broad scope of interest in the community, identify interested parties, and analyze current contributions from other organizations.

They will then consider if a standards effort led by ISA is warranted, based on use cases and current efforts underway within other organizations. If so, the group will develop the scope, purpose, deliverables, and schedule for a proposed new working group, which will then work to define and develop the standard for ISA and ANSI approval.

The group has begun soliciting the automation industry to determine interest levels in developing a standard for a wireless factory and discrete automation system to serve hybrid and discrete industries. Some of those industries include consumer goods, electronics, automotive, and aerospace. As opposed to environments driving the ISA100.11a (release 1) and other emerging interest groups, this group will consider assembly, batch, blending, packing, robotics, and shop floor data collection.