The State of the Open Process Automation Standard (O-PAS)

The State of the Open Process Automation Standard (O-PAS)
The State of the Open Process Automation Standard (O-PAS)

In a presentation during the International Society of Automation’s (ISA) Virtual Process Industry Conference (PIC) on Nov. 17, 2020, Don Bartusiak, president of Collaborative Systems Integration and co-chair of the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), gave an overview of OPAF’s published standards and the planned future work of the forum. In particular, he provided insight into the Open Process Automation Standard (O-PAS). 

Bartusiak, who recently retired as chief engineer in process control with ExxonMobil Research and Engineering after 33 years of service, first discussed the motivation for open process automation in terms of what business problems it is designed to solve. In general, the motivations include reduced cost of control system upgrades or replacements, increased value generation by removing barriers to technology insertion, and the ability to build security attributes into the design. 

Open process automation encompasses multiple individual systems: the manufacturing execution system (MES); distributed control system (DCS); programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and human-machine interface (HMIs); safety instrumented systems (SIS); and input/output (I/O) points. 

“The vision for the solution [to the open process automation business problems] is to move away from closed, proprietary, distributed control systems towards a standards-based open, secure and interoperable process automation architecture against which instances of systems can be built that are fit-for-purpose for the asset owner’s needs,” Bartusiak said.  

The state of O-PAS 

This vision is based on a standard called the Open Process Automation Standard (O-PAS), which was founded in November 2016. OPAF, which supports the standard, now includes 103 member organizations, 22 operating companies, six of seven major control system vendors, hardware and software suppliers, and system integrators.  

“One thing that’s unique about OPAF’s approach to standards is that it is not only about the technical work of defining the standard,” Bartusiak said. “We have three activity tracks progressing in parallel: defining the business ecosystem, developing the technical standards, and building conformance certification.” 

Next, Bartusiak briefly discussed the three versions of O-PAS. “In version 1, which was first published in 2019, we address the key quality attribute of interoperability. In version 2, which was published in January 2020, the O-PAS standard addresses configuration portability. Our new phase of work, version three, will address application portability.” 

Bartusiak emphasized that O-PAS is a “standard of standards.” That means OPAF is working with other standards development organizations including ISA. Other organization’s standards related to the seven parts of O-PAS are shown in the chart below.  

"O-PAS is a 'standard of standards,'" said Bartusiak. As such, it encompasses multiple standards from other organizations. 

Bartusiak ended his presentation by summarizing the benefits of O-PAS for end users as well as suppliers and integrators. The summary of benefits can be viewed in the table below:

“The critical mass of end user demand for change is key to success factor for OPAF,” Bartusiak noted. He said those who wish to join OPAF can find out more online or by emailing Mike Hickey: [email protected]

Writing in InTech magazine, Bill Lydon reported on a pilot project—a collaboration between Exxon and AI software vendor, which demonstrating the automation of provisioning, initiation, and life-cycle management of open-architecture, multivendor industrial control systems based on O-PAS. The pilot leveraged a number of standards, including the Open Process Automation™ Standard (O-PAS), OPC-UA, DMTF Redfish, IEC 61499, and OASIS TOSCA (Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications).

Find out more about the 2020 Process Industry Conference at ISA’s Process Industry Conference, held virtually in 2020, is one of many events within the Process Control & Instrumentation section of ISA’s Virtual Events series. Find out about these and other conferences and webinars within the Digital Transformation, Cybersecurity, and Smart Manufacturing & IIoT tracks online here.

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Melissa Landon is the content editor at

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