Open Process Automation Forum Modernizing Manufacturing

Open Process Automation Forum Modernizing Manufacturing
Open Process Automation Forum Modernizing Manufacturing

Members of the Open Group Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF) provided a progress update Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 discussing progress and planned developments to achieve the goal of greater interoperability and portability in manufacturing control systems.

The Open Process Automation Forum has made a great deal of progress since Don Bartusiak’s keynote presentation at the 2017 ARC conference defining the compelling need for open process automation systems for manufacturing & process companies to be competitive. His reasoning motivated me to sum it up in this article: Compliance of the Victim: ARC Industry Forum Highlights an Industry in Transition. The Open Process Automation Forum concepts are being validated by the support of users and enlightened suppliers throughout the world working to make Open Process Automation Systems a reality.

Why should you care?

One of the core competitive factors in the process and manufacturing industries is efficient production and companies that do not take advantage of the appropriate disruptive innovations are likely to become uncompetitive and leapfrogged by their competitors.  For example, when Henry Ford applied new thinking and technology the company dominated the automotive industry.  Later Toyota leaped ahead of competitors taking significant market share profits and jobs from established automakers with new manufacturing technology.

Open Process Automation Forum progress

Don Bartusiak, co-chair of the Open Process Automation Forum, and president, Collaborative Systems Integration, opened the event by reinforcing the mission: “The open process automation forum of The Open Group is defining the standard of standards for an open, secure and interoperable process automation architecture.” He characterized the current OPAF organization status: “It's making the theory work in practice; I think that's where we are at this at the at this point of history and the commercialization of the idea.”

Notable milestones include the third release of the OPAS standard version 2.1, and three weeks ago a successful interoperability plug fest workshop with more than a dozen companies meeting virtually testing products against the OPAS standard. The second half of 2022 the organization will start up the first phase of conformance certification which will include cybersecurity, network interoperability, system management, and initial phases of the digital control node physical platform files.

The Forums Business Working Group continues to be the focal point for end user engagement and liaison with other standards development organizations such as NAMUR.  Most importantly this group has activities focused on industry adoption:

  • Early in 2021 we held the first industry adoption workshop that we expect to have more of in the future.
  • In May of 2021 we published the third release of the standard version 2.1
  • Three weeks ago, an interoperability workshop, also known as plug fest where more than a dozen companies got together virtually to test their products against the standard.
  • June 2021 the organization held an end-user caucus with more than 179 people attending.
  • In December of 2021 we published an update to the OPA business guide, which is our flagship publication for making the business case for action.
  • The business working group is currently drafting a reference implementation guide.

Don Bartusiak described prototyping projects companies are engaged in based on the OPAF specification.

  • Exxon Mobil announced final investment decision for an OPA field trial that will have more than 2,000 I/O.
  • Georgia Pacific has built a small portable OPA demonstration board system to educate at paper mills.
  • BASF is building an OPA Module Type Package (MTP) and NAMUR Open Architecture demonstration of intelligent digital field devices that include cloud connectivity
  • Saudi Aramco and PETRONAS have announced development of test bed facilities.
  • Dow Chemical has shared their MxD test bed being used to explore OPA and digital twin concepts.
  • A number of systems integrators and supplier companies in the OPA forum have self-organized into the Coalition for Open Process Automation, offering a system and a training program called Quick Start with announcements of purchases by operating companies soon.

Dave Emerson (Yokogawa), co-chair of the Enterprise Architecture Working Group

Dave Emerson, co-chair of the of the Enterprise Architecture Working Group, described activities, specification releases and plans. Dave Emerson is vice president, U.S. Technology Center, at Yokogawa in Texas. The OPAS standard is actually multiple parts and when the first version 2019 had five parts, then in 2001 version two added in some more parts and now version 2.1 came out last year it has several parts:

Part One: Technical architecture

Emerson recommends this is the best place to start for a technical overview and how the entire standard addresses the goals of the architecture.

Part Two: Security

The goal is defining built in security which is critical for success of the architecture.In the last year a lot of work has been done applying the IEC 62443/ISA99 standard creating checklist and defining how these apply and are built into other parts of the OPAS standard.This includes defining conformance testing and cooperation with other standards agencies.System components and profiles will require certification to IEC 62443 by an independent organization such as to TUV or ISA Security Compliance Institute.On a project the user or integrator will be responsible for system level certification to IEC 62443.

Part Three: Profiles

Groups together the features and functions of all the parts of the standard that product suppliers are expected to conform including how products will be tested and certification be granted.

Part Four: Connectivity framework

The connectivity framework is based on OPC UA. “We have been fortunate to have great with the OPC Foundation and many involved with OPAF are active members in the OPC UA working group. This enables OPAF to keep up to date on the latest OPC Foundation developments to synchronize the OPAS technology stack.There is also cooperative feedback to the OPC Foundation that benefits both organizations."

Part Five: System management

This uses the established IT industry standard Redfish from the DMTF organization, to specify what information should be reported by all OPAS software programs, hardware platforms, and other system components.This facilitates the ability to have certifications on profiles for different types of devices and software to ensure consistent system management reporting on the health of every component in the system.Emerson noted, “this is going to be of immense value providing an integrated system with all components from different suppliers reporting a consistent set of information.”

Part Six: Six subparts

  • 6.1 Information & Exchange Model - Using OPC UA and AutomationML to define common OPAS contextual data syntax. AutomationML is the automation markup language with an XML vocabulary for information exchange offline between different tools and systems.
  • 6.2 Basic Configuration - OPC UA information model that adds a vocabulary to define information is being exchanged between OPAS components for control and system information.
  • 6.3 Alarms – Uses the ISA-18.2 / IEC 62682 standard implemented with the OPC UA Alarms & Conditions standard to achieve uniform alarm and event messaging throughout the system.
  • 6.4 Function Blocks - A basic set of reference function blocks to achieve consistency between suppliers that can be tested and benchmarked.
  • 6.5 IEC 61499 - standard which uses IEC 61131-3 function blocks and adds function blocks for event driven execution.
  • 6.6 IEC 61131-3 standard and the PLCopen organization functions and certifications.

Part Seven: Distributed Control Platform

Ddefinition of hardware standardization that will grow and scale.

OPAS broad application scope

Although this initially started focused on oil & gas, and chemical industry the OPAS community wants to be sure it serves the needs of the broader automation and control industry including food & beverage, consumer packaged goods, water industry, utilities, and renewable energy. Emerson emphasized, “we're not trying to solve just one industries problem but trying to be very broad minded with the OPAS specification.”

Version 3

Looking ahead the organization is working on version 3 that defines application portability providing end users the ability to move applications, especially their intellectual property and controlled strategies between different systems. In addition, system orchestration management to automate functions and make system smart enough to move workloads around to processors as needed to ensure desired system performance, improved reliability, and make systems resilient. These and other functions are progressing and will come into the standard as appropriate.

Conformance Certification & Compliance

Ed Agis, co-chair of the Certification Working Group, started by emphasizing, “The development of conformance and a certification program is where we definitely work on making sure and demonstrate that the theory works in practice.” Agis has a long career in this area working at Intel as Next Generation Standards Technology Engineering Director for Certification and Compliance Initiatives.   

Agis described how the OPAF organization started in the early stages of specification development working with the technical working group noting, “A lot of people think that conformance starts to happen towards the back end of the standards process and that's not the case. A team of experts and subject matter experts that understand the requirements to develop test purposes and test cases.”

Creating conformance tests provide assurance to the end-user that the product does indeed meet functional and performance requirements. Products need to be certified for conformance by an independent third-party test lab that has been accredited and approved.

Thoughts & observations

The Open Process Automation Forum has come a long way in a short time primarily because the concepts are being validated by the support of users and enlightened suppliers throughout the world working to make Open Process Automation Systems a reality.

I believe illustrating OPAS system performance in test beds and real-world applications is going to be required to sell people on a multivendor interoperable open system concept.  Performance data from upcoming pilot projects in real-world applications will be important. Achieving effective real-time industrial control performance includes speed and determinism plus field inputs/outputs synchronization for control applications. The Open Process Automation Forum is part of a large movement happening throughout the world creating an ecosystem that includes computing, software, and IoT standards groups.

The Open Process Automation Forum as another example of how the foundations of the automation industry are being reshaped by the application of the torrent of ideas, technologies, software, and products driven by business digitalization, Industry 4.0, IT/OT integration and Internet of Things (IIoT).

Acronyms & references

  • O-PAS - The Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF) develops and maintains Open Process Automation Standards (O-PAS)
  • OPAF - The Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF) is a consensus-based group of end users, suppliers, system integrators, standards organizations, and academia. It addresses both technical and business issues for process automation. OPAF is a part of The Open Group a global consortium that enables the achievement of business objectives through technology standards with over 800 participating organizations includes users, systems and solutions suppliers, tool vendors, integrators, academics, and consultants across multiple industries.
  • COPA - Coalition for Open Process Automation is a partnership program to encourage collaboration among OT and IT vendors in the creation of commercial control systems based upon the Open Process Automation Standard (O - PAS).

About The Author

Bill Lydon, contributing editor of and ISA’s InTech magazine, brings more than 10 years of writing and editing expertise to, plus more than 25 years of experience designing and applying technology in the automation and controls industry. Lydon started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and process control technology. Working at a large company, Lydon served a two-year stint as part of a five-person task group, that designed a new generation building automation system including controllers, networking, and supervisory & control software.  He also designed software for chiller and boiler plant optimization.   Bill was product manager for a multimillion-dollar controls and automation product line and later cofounder and president of an industrial control software company.

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