Standards for the World of Automation, Systems and Instrumentation

What is a standard?

Imagine moving into a new house and going to plug your refrigerator into the wall – only to find that the plug doesn’t match the outlet! Electrical standards set decades ago ensure that won’t happen. And standards today allow you to get your film developed anywhere in the world, or make a phone call from here to China. An ounce in North Carolina is the same as an ounce in Nebraska, and you can hook up almost any kind of stereo component from any electronics store.

All of these conveniences are the result of a standard, a set of characteristics or quantities that describes features of a product, process, service, interface or material.

Standards don’t just make life easier, they make it safer…and they enhance companies’ profitability. For instance, builders save money because construction materials are available in standard sizes. At the same time, electrical codes that builders must follow save lives.

Some standards evolve through marketplace competition, the dominance of the IBM-based personal computer being a classic example. And the U.S. government has, for decades, viewed standards development as its role. Today the U.S. government manages about 50,000 mandatory standards – from automobile airbag regulations administered by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration to missile component standards required by the Department of Defense. Another 40,000 standards are the result of voluntary efforts by industry groups to develop consensus standards that benefit vendors, suppliers and customers.

Key Features, Advantages, and Benefits of Standards

Realize a direct return on investment by

  • lowering installation and startup costs
  • reducing need to maintain large inventories
  • enabling interchangeability of components.
  • improving design with less “custom” effort
  • increasing safety

Use of standards in industry

  • improves communication
  • provides practical application of expert knowledge
  • represents years of experience and avoids necessity of starting each project from ground up.

Standards help you achieve operational excellence by

  • improving performance
  • lowering maintenance Costs
  • reducing downtime
  • enhancing operability
  • saving money.

ISA’s Role in Developing Standards

More than 4,000 individuals cooperating with more than 140 committees, subcommittees, working groups and task forces are involved in ISA standards. They’re developing standards in areas as diverse as ensuring the safety of electrical equipment used in hazardous locations to cost-savings for interfaces between industrial process control computers and subsystems.

How a Standard Saves Money

ISA’s batch control standard illustrates how using a standard cuts costs. Food, pharmaceutical and specialty chemical companies build factories with increasingly sophisticated computer-driven automation. The batch standard ISA developed-ANSI/ISA-S88.01 – shaves as much as 30 percent off the cost of designing the system and software used in these plants. ANSI/ISA-S88.01 sets out a blueprint that engineers can use to make portions of the code interchangeable, which is less expensive than designing each piece from the ground up. The savings extend beyond the facility’s design, though. By using the batch standard, companies save as much as 10 to 15 percent off the typical cost of meeting Food and Drug Administration criteria for the reliability of automation equipment.

How a Standard Saves Lives

Other ISA standards focus on safety. ISA has developed standards for the performance requirements of toxic gas detectors, standards to keep electrical equipment from igniting flammable material and standards to ensure safety at nuclear power plants. And some ISA standards can help an entire industry combine cost savings and safety. The most popular ISA standard is ANSI/ISA-S5.1, Instrumentation Symbols and Identification. Developed in 1949 and most recently reaffirmed in 1992, these symbols are used in blueprints for everything from power plants to factories. If every contractor on a project knows the standard symbols, there are fewer communication problems that could lead to costly delays or safety problems.

Using Standards to Help Your Business Expand Globally

Your company has a product that’s taken the United States by storm; now you want to expand globally. But there is a hitch or, as the engineers might tell you, a “technical barrier to trade.” Your company’s product, or the process by which it’s made, doesn’t meet international standards. Many ISA standards are also international standards, and our committees strive to stay current with evolving global standards. ISA administers three committees for the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC),which is one of the two most widely recognized international standards groups, along with International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

How Your Company Can Take Advantage of ISA’s Standards

  • Buy ISA standards and train your employees to follow it.
  • Help set a standard. ISA’s committees are eager for help. Both voting and non-voting memberships are available. Voting members must have their employers’ approval, in part because attending at least one meeting a year is expected. But we’re cutting down on the time demands of committee membership by encouraging members to do a great deal of their work via e-mail. Non-voting members supply input but are not required to attend meetings. Contact Charley Robinson, +1 919-990-9213 to volunteer.