June 2009

Standard packaging of information

Until the last couple of years, real-world applications of Open Applications Group Integration Specification (OAGIS) and ISA95 by innovative manufacturers, industrial, and enterprise software vendors have effectively responded to their customers' needs.

The goal of the OAGIS standard is to provide a cost effective way for organizations to integrate their applications with each other, with third-party applications, and with applications belonging to other organizations (e.g., suppliers).

The vision is to go beyond simply providing technology that facilitates integration (e.g. XML, messaging, web services) to establishing a common canonical standard for information to be exchanged between those applications, as well as a standard way of "packaging" that information.

OAGIS focuses on content and its exchange, not the mechanism (e.g., web services, messaging, FTP) by which the information exchange takes place.


OAGIS attempts to encapsulate an application playing a role in an integration scenario (e.g. Enterprise Resource Planning, ERP, supplying production orders to the plant floor) as a black box with information flowing in and out of the black box, based on the standard.

Thus, information transforms to a standard format (OAG Business Object Document - BOD) as it passes into the integration cloud, before it goes to receiving applications.

As a result, the plant floor application (in this example) does not receive an ERP system specific order; it receives the order as an OAGIS BOD. Because of that, if the ERP system swaps out to a different brand, or if the orders are at some point produced by another source application, the receiving application should not need to change.

This should also hold true if the ERP system remains the same while, the plant floor application is changed.

OAGIS has approached the integration problem by first establishing integration scenarios for a set of applications.

The flows between the applications consist of OAGIS BODs that are part of the standard (e.g., Sync ProductionOrder). Each BOD has a standard structure with a standard header and a body unique to the BOD.

The entire OAGIS standard is available as a free download to anyone who registers on the web site (http://www.oagi.org).

Nicholas Sheble (nsheble@isa.org) writes and edits Channel Talk. The source for this article is The Hitchhikers Guide to Manufacturing Operations Management, Charlie Gifford, editor and contributing writer, ISA Press, 2007.