Regulatory Focus: OMAC and ISA Officially Announce Merger

Two entities will combine to integrate and broaden standards.

Ben Van Houten
Managing Editor

ELAU’s booth at Interpack in Düsseldorf saw a lot of interest in automated packaging.

The Instrumentation, Systems, and Automation Society (ISA; Research Triangle Park, NC) has officially begun its efforts to merge with the Open Modular Architecture Controls (OMAC) Users’ Group, a move that could broaden both groups’ packaging, converting, and material handling standards.

To facilitate the merger, the ISA executive board has established a subsidiary organization to provide a new home for OMAC. The OMAC board of directors, meanwhile, is already at work establishing a strategic plan for the combined organizations, including the outlining of plans for development of industry guidelines, a new membership structure, and meeting and training opportunities.

Both organizations have expressed hope that the merger will make it easier to horizontally network and synchronize packaging lines automated by companies with manufacturing lines controlled by the PLC and DCS vendors’ systems. In addition, the merger will reportedly lead to integrating and broadening of standards that could help manufacturers optimize plants, bridge traditional information gaps in automation, and possibly meet emerging requirements such as tracking and tracing of products.

One of the first results of the merger will be the adaptation of the OMAC Packaging Machinery Language (PackML) team guidelines into the ISA-SP88 standard for batch control systems. PackML, a subcommittee team of the OMAC Packaging workgroup, seeks to develop guidelines for line types, machine state models, and tag naming conventions for communications among production machinery within the packaging industry.

According to officials, the merger will also provide benefits to end-users, OEMs, and automation suppliers. It will allow ISA and OMAC to enhance their missions to facilitate the development and application of automation technology.

ELAU, a founding member of the OMAC Packaging Workgroup, is supportive. “OMAC, as a pure users group, will benefit from the infrastructure that an international standards organization provides,” says John Kowal, marketing manager for ELAU. “And for ISA, with its strengths in process control, it’s only logical to expand its focus to include OMAC’s discrete control guidelines for packaging and manufacturing.” Linking manufacturing and packaging promises efficiencies in both realms. “By better synchronizing production with packaging, smaller batches can be made with less lead time. This brings manufacturing a step closer to the goal of ‘make an order’ instead of making the anticipated products and packages to stock. This also has the impact of reducing inventory and the potential for waste of perishable items.”

OMAC is designed to find common solutions for both technical and nontechnical issues in the development, implementation, and commercialization of open, modular architecture control technologies. It also facilitates the development and convergence of industry and government-developed OMAC technology guidelines to one set that satisfies common use requirements. The group currently has about 500 member representatives from end-user companies, OEMs, and technology providers and integrator companies. In addition to the packaging machinery workgroup, OMAC operates manufacturing infrastructure and machine tool groups.

ISA, a nonprofit organization, is designed to further advance the theory, design, manufacture, and use of sensors, instruments, computers, and systems for automation in a wide variety of applications and industries. For more information about the merger and about each organization, visit OMAC’s home page at www.omac. org, or ISA’s home page at

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