All manufacturing companies want to grow and thrive. One of many challenges manufacturers face is implementing a Data Driven culture, especially with so many business and plant software systems. Being Data Driven as a company means people all over the company have access to a single version of the truth (i.e., the data) for the business and plant operations, and can use that data to solve problems, make decisions, and most importantly take action.

To achieve this capability the multitude of functions and workflows within the company must be interconnected. I would suggest this can be done using the ISA-95 MOM activity model.

However, this can be a massive undertaking, and as a result is likely to be something pushed off for years on end.

I would suggest there may be a way to start that process now…by leveraging IoT software platforms (like ThingWorx by PTC) and other tools we use everyday to solve technical challenges for our clients.

Remote Monitoring as the Gateway

Let’s say you’ve solved a single problem with a remote monitoring solution. Maybe you’re pulling CNC spindle run-time data to know when it’s producing and when it’s not, and it’s coupled with a web application on a tablet for the operators to enter downtime reason codes.

The remote monitoring project can provide better data for better decisions around equipment downtime. You’re able to see the real-time, accurate unplanned downtime information, do root cause analysis, tackle the issues, and then confirm it indeed reduced your unplanned downtime. This should then reduce maintenance costs and increase production of the asset.

However, that doesn’t solve all the problems of the business. To solve more problems, we could pick one or two additional, single challenges and knock them off one by one as point-to-point solutions. The problem is these one-off solutions will be highly customized and unique, and therefore possibly short-lived. If you keep doing this you’ll end up with a chaotic solution. (See Figure)

ISA-95, ISO, MESA International © 2012, 2017, and IEC 62264-01

ISA-95, ISO, MESA International © 2012, 2017, and IEC 62264-01

Instead, what you can do is solve certain challenges now with remote monitoring (IoT) now AND lay foundation for that better future now. You’re killing two birds, or many birds with one stone.


Let’s briefly set the background. ISA is the International Standards Association, of which we are a member. They are a nonprofit professional association focused on helping the industrial automation community achieve operational excellence through publishing standards, providing education and training, publishing books, etc.

They the developed ISA-95 standard, among many others, starting back in 2000. This standard has 5 parts and some of it is still under development. The purpose of the ISA-95 standard was to create an interface architecture between enterprise business and automation control systems in a company. Implementation of the standard would ensure the people, processes, and technology at a company are well orchestrated and all moving in the right direction to improve how the company operates and ensure its success.

A lot of what the ISA-95 standard addresses with this interface architecture is the Level 3 area of the Purdue Reference Model (See Figure).

ISA-95, ISO, MESA International © 2012, 2017, and IEC 62264-01

ISA-95, ISO, MESA International © 2012, 2017, and IEC 62264-01

Business and Plant are Disconnected

This is nice theory, but why is a system like this necessary? In manufacturing the business and the plant are often disconnected. 80% of companies have little to no connection of real-time, decision quality information to use in day-to-day awareness of operations and decision making.

In this gap there are various activities happening in the business and the plant, including:

  • What resources and assets are available for use
  • Schedules of what to make and what resources to use to make them
  • The process of making the products
  • Reporting back of what was made and what resources were used

This gap is often filled with paper-based clipboard recording and Excel report systems, which are very slow, error prone, and can report only a limited amount of data. Paper and Excel are not realistic solutions for such a complex system.

Therefore, to connect the activities in a manufacturing company between the business and plant you need a well-organized and orchestrated system to coordinate all of this data and activity.ISA-95 provides that standard, that structure, that architecture.

MOM Activity Model

This gap is addressed by the Manufacturing Operations Management system. The MOM activity model in ISA-95 defines specific functional areas that are typical for manufacturing, then suggests that companies integrate their existing software around these functional areas so that there can be a single version of the truth and people will get visibility on all areas of the plant, better decisions, and better execution of processes. (See Figure)

ISA-95, ISO, MESA International © 2012, 2017, and IEC 62264-01

ISA-95, ISO, MESA International © 2012, 2017, and IEC 62264-01

How do you execute a MOM architected solution? I’d posit that you can get this kind of future solution in place using platforms like the Thingworx IoT software platform, other products within the ThingWorx suite, and products we use on an everyday basis.

The solution could be tackled in one single project. However, the project would be massive and very expensive. It would be too much for a manufacturing company to handle in a single year based on interruptions to the business, cashflow, etc.

One suggestion might be to find that first single challenge like unplanned downtime and create the remote monitoring solution around it. Use that one solution to start in one area of the MOM activity model diagram and then continue to work that area. Build it out more with good structure, logic, workflows, etc. and valuable solutions implemented on that platform.

So, you design that single, remote monitoring solution within the context of one of the areas of MOM in the IIoT software platform and other tools. You then execute a couple more IIoT projects within the context of MOM, and at the same time you start to plan out and build out the MOM solution to connect people, processes, and technology to work more harmoniously together.

Keep in Mind

Some people might ask, “can I use our BI (Business Intelligence) tools to do this?” BI tools won’t be sufficient here as they only display data. Solutions like the ISA-95 MOM model require the capability to store and process data with rules written in to the software.

Similar questions come up about SCADA products and having them address these kinds of solutions. This kind of situation isn’t a great fit for SCADA products because many of those products are built on older technology which lack data visualization, business rules, data integration capabilities, etc. They are also often built to handle and work with data only up to a certain level in the ISA-95 system hierarchy diagram.