The revolution of industrial systems and the collapse of a pyramid

Submitted by Ricardo Giacomin on Fri, 02/03/2017 - 16:14
The revolution of industrial systems and the collapse of a pyramid

The development of systems that automate and facilitate the processes of companies is constant. Understand how Industry 4.0 drives the interconnection and evolution of these solutions.

Industrial companies continuously develop and deploy new information and automation systems to deal with their problems and challenges, aiming to improve their operational performance. These systems have wide variety: software, hardware or both, big or small, corporate or local, in different programming languages or operational platforms, custom developed or off-the-shelf.

ISA pyramid

In the last decade, especially after the market adopted the concepts and models brought by the ANSI/ISA-95 standard, most companies started to organize these systems in a hierarchy and graphically present them in the form of a pyramid. The industrial automation pyramid, or ISA pyramid, as it is sometimes called, distributes systems in 5 levels.:

  • Level 0 contains sensor and actuator systems.
  • Level 1 contains control systems, and include PLCs and SDCDs.
  • Supervisory systems (SCADAs) and PIMS are in level 2.
  • Manufacturing execution systems (MES), one of the main topics of the ANSI/ISA-95 framework, are level 3.
  • Finally, corporate planning tools, particularly ERPs, sit in level 4.

This hierarchical organized has helped stabilize concepts and models for some time, especially for MES, and enforce the main interfaces between elements in different levels.

Industry 4.0 and the interconnection of systems 

But industrial companies are now at the start of a revolution. The framework of new technologies that drive the so-called Industry 4.0 movement, including the Internet of Things, cyber-physical systems, and big data, promote the development of new solutions that do not adhere to the classical hierarchical structure outlined above. On the contrary, they demand a more flexible, free perspective, without fixed integrations nor closed systems.

In this new world without frontiers nor frameworks, systems are smart and highly interconnected. Data does not only flow in one direction, aggregated from the bottom up. Terms such as “shop-flor systems” and “corporate systems” are no longer adequate. It no longer makes sense to draw the line between IT systems and teams, and their automation counterparts. It is time to reassess the jobs of the CIO and the automation manager, wherever they are in the corporate organogram. It is not just the ISA pyramid that is getting outdated. There are other established models being challenged that must now be reviewed as we witness the technological revolution called Industry 4.0.

Welcome to the next age!

Click here and learn more about how the data acquired by various systems helps your operational and corporate management. 

EVP, Viridis

Viridis founding partner with more than 20 years of experience in developing and commissioning technology systems for industrial clients. He has led projects in Latin America, Europe, and the United States for companies in different industrial sectors. He is a specialist in the design and deployment of technology solutions for shop-floor management. He holds a MSc and a BSc in Computer Science from UFMG.


Commented by Thiago Turchetti Maia (CEO, Viridis) on Mon, 02/06/2017 - 13:38

New IoT technologies have the potential to change the current paradigms of automation systems. From a technical perspective, small IoT servers keep increasing in processing power, memory, and connectivity, offering distributed computational resources with much deeper capillarity than traditional architectures based on centralized processing with remote data gathering and actuation. We shall see an increasing number of distributed big data applications, once difficult to implement, enabled by this advance in technology.

From a management point of view, the governance of this new infrastructure is radically more efficient, bringing to the shop-floor all the resources available to software systems, including remote monitoring and operation, container-based commissioning, continuous integration and automated tests, high security standards, and others.

Companies that have started this journey are already benefiting from new classes of shop-floor applications and from greater agility to administer their infrastructure.

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