Standards Interoperability Breaks Silos in Operating Facilities

Problems of reliability and maintenance professionals in asset-intensive industries begin long before the plant is running. The roots of such problems begin in the engineering and design phases – even before construction begins.

Standards Interoperability Breaks Silos in Operating Facilities

Name one of your biggest headaches when something goes down at 2 a.m. Most likely it entails having ready access to engineering details of the unit, component or asset you’re working on. There exist documents in PDF format from the EPC contracting arrangement. What confidence does anyone have in the fact that data is accurate as to what has been built? Further, what is the confidence level that any engineering changes during the time in operation were fed back through a revision management system into the document you now have while trying to fix the problem?

Yet, obtaining data is not the issue today. Nor is there a problem with not enough IT and data standards. The crucial problem lies in the fact that so much data resides in silos of applications and databases. These may all comply with one data standard or another, but those standards are often actually in conflict with each other.

Data residing in the engineering silo may or may not match the data in the operations and maintenance systems. Many of the applications usually only have a skeleton of the data/information they actually need, in addition to what they have not matching the other systems. The value from each of the various applications is thus diminished, as is the aggregated value to the owner/operator.

Life-cycle information management and standards-based interoperability can be faster, better and cheaper than current methods because it addresses all of the problems. Various engineering, operations, maintenance and reliability systems may not even be properly connected to each other. Meanwhile, sensors providing real-time data may not be communicating in a protocol that applications can understand and share.

The Industrial Internet of Things and more powerful databases may provide floods of additional data without a meaningful context. Therefore, managers are still searching for meaningful information that will aid decision-making and improve performance.

Condition-based maintenance relies on timely, contextualized data in the same manner that managers rely on the same thing. Applications that will help maintenance, reliability, and asset optimization managers and engineers exist but are starved for real information.

The root problem is lack of interoperability among the various data silos from engineering to operations & maintenance systems. This lack of interoperability affects management and business performance. John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, write in Interop: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems, the following:

– Higher levels of interoperability can lead to systemic efficiencies. The greatest beneficiaries of interoperability are often business operations that use it to streamline their processes and manage costs.

Open Industrial Interoperability Ecosystem (OIIE)

Owner and operators recognize that they are in a bind. Custom integration of data horizontally across the plant asset lifecycle does not work in the long run. The integration expense usually has a significant impact on both plant profits and uptime. They have turned to technology suppliers, but the solution requires a larger industry effort.


The figure 1 shows the problem of passing data from system to system. The problems are both IT interoperability – getting the data to flow, and System of Systems interoperability – getting the entire facility operations to work together. The Open Industrial Interoperability Ecosystem (OIIE) provides the path to better Information Systems Management riding atop a variety of IT platforms.

Formed by a Memorandum of Understanding in 2007, the OpenO&M Initiative is driven by this need for achieving interoperability among open standards that, at the same time, allows for use of Commercial Off The Shelf software and solutions from the various technology suppliers. Founding members included ISA (ISA 95), MESA International (B2MML), MIMOSA (CCOM), and the OPC Foundation (OPC UA).

This ecosystem of interoperable standards describes how the various standards are used together to support systems, communications, and applications interoperability employing a system-of-systems approach. It builds upon existing standards and describes how to make them work together. 

The OIIE is well-documented and available for use by technology providers and suppliers and by owners as well as operators. While you may not be familiar with the OIIE, it is technology that is available today to help you bring appropriate, contextualized data into your maintenance, reliability, and asset management system.


Fig 1. The problem of passing data from system to system.

The OIIE Simplified Systems Architecture represents the framework for developing an enterprise architecture that employs System of Systems interoperability. The foundation of an interoperability architecture is standards, and the OIIE uses a portfolio approach in leveraging both international and industry standards. The selection of standards is based on their capability to meet the industry-specified requirements, as well as levels of industry adoption and community engagement.

The OIIE prescribes the use of standards for several important components, including:

• An information message bus to provide middleware-based data transport/conveyance
• Information and message models for the representation of messages and service inputs/outputs
• Reference data for consensual interpretation of information
• A service directory to register ecosystem applications, manage service of record, and exchange service endpoint and transport configuration
• An asset interoperability register, which includes the primary enterprise breakdown structure used to manage the ecosystem, application specific identifier mapping to standard identifiers and associated UUID management, datasheet definitions management and mapping, as well as the asset configuration management change log

Standardization of the above components allows industries to collectively reduce capital and operating costs as well as risks, because software required to support the OIIE (that is software adapters) can be written and, more importantly, maintained by software suppliers rather than owner/operators. In addition to the organizations that are a part of the OpenO&M Initiative, Fiatech, POSC Caesar Association, and the Professional Petroleum Data Management Association, have joined in the work to help define and support the OIIE, which has been led by MIMOSA.

Reduce Capital and Operating Costs

The centrepiece of the OIIE Systems Architecture is the OpenO&M web services Information Service Bus Model (ws-ISBM) – also described in ISA 95-Standard for Enterprise Control System Integration. The ISBM specification can handle the arbitration for Level 3 related activities, and it is, in fact, a series of open APIs. Equally important are the OIIE Administration tool specifications, which provide the basis for application and supplier neutral ecosystem administration, which is critical to establishing and maintaining an interoperability ecosystem. The OIIE Administration tool specifications include the MIMOSA Service Directory and Structured Digital Asset Interoperability Register (SDAIR), in addition to the OpenO&M Common Interoperability Register (CIR).


Fig_2. The OIIE Simplified Systems Architecture represents the framework for developing an enterprise architecture.

Importantly, the business process itself is not standardized by the OIIE. No attempt is made to require either proprietary application software or a plant’s business process to conform to a standard. We do require that proprietary applications have an OIIE adaptor in order to participate in the OIIE. The key is they can maintain their proprietary IM and IS aspects internally, while the adaptors need to support the standard APIs and provide transforms for the standardized event payloads.

Standardization allows industries to collectively reduce capital and operating costs as well as risks, because software required to support the OIIE can be written and, more importantly, maintained by software suppliers rather than owner/operators.

OPC is Key for Plant Data

MIMOSA and OPC Foundation brought together the technologies that formed the basis of the OpenO&M Initiative. They have a long history of working together to enable standards-based interoperability in maintenance, reliability, and asset management applications. MIMOSA has consistently provided leadership standardization capabilities in maintenance, reliability, and asset management; while, OPC has provided leadership in data connectivity.

OPC UA provides a key component in the OpenO&M architecture. OPC UA provides the service-orientated architecture for moving data/information from embedded applications to enterprise applications, where the focus of the services provided is to provide a solid infrastructure for multivendor multiplatform secure reliable interoperability. Included in the OPC UA infrastructure is the architecture of information modelling.

The OPC Foundation collaborates with other organizations whereby another organization may use the OPC UA information model architecture to develop an OPC UA companion specification that provides the mechanism for the organization’s information model to be plugged into the OPC UA architecture facilitating generic interoperability.

OPC Unified Architecture has standardized information models for OPC-related data structures inclusive of data access, alarming, and historical data access. OPC does not have an information model for asset modelling. OPC members can have an asset model built into their products through the collaboration OPC Foundation has with MIMOSA, and being able to use the standard asset model information.

OGI Pilot Demonstrates Success

MIMOSA brought together a number of companies and standards organizations to prove the concept in 2009. Twelve technology suppliers, universities, standards organizations, and owner/operators worked together to construct a pilot of a debutanizer project. The Oil & Gas Interoperability (OGI) Pilot – an instance of the Open Industrial Interoperability Ecosystem (OIIE) – demonstrated the feasibility in action of a continuous handover from design to operation and maintenance of a debutanizer.

Eleven Use Cases were developed and five actively demonstrated:

• Capital project handovers to O&M
• Recurring engineering updates to O&M
• Field changes to plant/facility engineering
• Enterprise Product Data Library Management
• Asset installation/removal updates
• Preventive maintenance triggering
• Condition-based maintenance triggering
• Early warning notifications
• Incident management/accountability
• Automated provisioning of O&M systems
• Enterprise Reference Data Library (RDL) Management

The OGI Pilot is establishing the OIIE interoperability test-bed, while demonstrating that its approach to standards-based interoperability provides a rational alternative to the status quo. While initial phases featured opportunistic handover from design to operations and maintenance systems, using oil gas asset classes, next steps will re-emphasize interoperability between maintenance, reliability and condition management systems and also add other asset classes. This will provide a full life-cycle approach for physical asset management, properly supporting the requirements of maintenance and reliability engineers and managers.

All OGI Pilot and OIIE artefacts are available on the website. l

Additional information on the writer:
Gary Mintchell, Founder of The Manufacturing Connection, followed up on a 25-year manufacturing and IT career with a second career in media becoming the voice of automation. He is now an independent writer, analyst and consultant in manufacturing and production technologies and strategies. He can be reached at and on Twitter at @garymintchell.



Gary Mintchell
The Manufacturing Connection,
Twitter: @garymintchell

R&D | 20.5.2016

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