Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Cybersecurity Myths - We Are Disconned

Authored by Dirk Sweigart, MESA Cybersecurity Working Group Chairman 

In February of this year, I had Covid 19 symptoms and tested positive.  How did that happen?  I social- distanced, wore a mask, dramatically limited my interactions with others, washed my hands regularly and thought I was protecting myself.  I thought I was reasonably “disconnected.”  Turns out, I was not.

You may think your manufacturing systems or industrial control systems are similarly “disconnected.”  However, you may not be aware of the number of factors working against your assumption that can make it essentially moot.  After all, as I am proof, it only takes one time.

What are these factors?  Here are some potential “back-channels” into your systems that could allow this to occur.

Almost any time you connect a device to a USB port anywhere on the disconnected network, you could be breaking the disconnect.  If any USB ports are open, anywhere on the controls or manufacturing network, then connecting a device, even just to charge it, is breaching the barrier.  You are no longer disconnected.  An operator plugs his cell phone into a USB port to charge it…the use of peripherals can break the disconnect.  

Are there devices that use wireless in use within the network?  If so, unless access is tightly managed, wireless can be a place where the disconnect is broken.  Sometimes devices are added to a network (maybe temporarily) and they have wireless enabled on them.  Have you ever connected a laptop to work on the disconnected network and have wireless enabled on the laptop?  Printers sometimes have wireless available.  The use of wireless can break the disconnect.

Sharing the wired network – does your control system ever share a switch with another network?  This is sometimes done for convenience, cost or by an IT department (perhaps without realizing they are breaking the disconnect) and perhaps using a VLAN.  Sharing switches with other networks can break the disconnect.

Even if you connect a workstation that is not actively connected to a wireless network, it may have been connected (and\or infected) recently.  After all, how are you going to get software updates or new configuration into your disconnected network?  Connecting external devices such as laptops to the disconnected network can break the disconnect. 

It is not unusual, especially during the pandemic, for methods of remote access to the control or manufacturing systems to be set up.  Knowledge of the existence of these may be closely held and they may also be connected only when needed.  Regardless, these remote access techniques represent a break in the “disconnected” paradigm. 

Perhaps what is meant by “disconnected” is actually “lightly” connected.  The manufacturing or controls networks may have only a single point of access protected by a firewall that is tightly locked for in-bound traffic.  Being actually connected by a firewall device, even one tightly controlled, is not disconnected.  Also, pay attention to both the inbound and OUTBOUND firewall rules if you are using a common stateful firewall. If you lock down inbound requests but not outbound requests, you may have internal connections being made to e-mail or websites where malware can be encountered and introduced into your “disconnected” network.

This is not to say that you must find and kill all these new back-channels. Just be aware that they often do exist and evaluate your risks accordingly.  You can maintain that “it won’t happen to me”, but don’t believe the myth that it’s because you’re disconnected. Cough, cough!

About the Author

Dirk Sweigart, CISSP, PMP (Applied Control Engineering, Inc.) is an MES Solutions Manager and Cybersecurity Expert at Applied Control Engineering, Inc in Newark, DE.  He has over thirty years experience developing systems for process control, SCADA, MES and business applications with DuPont, INVISTA, Koch Industries and ACE.  Dirk also teaches cybersecurity and SCADA at the Wilmington University graduate school.  He is an information member of the ISA-95 Committee and a member of the MESA Cybersecurity Working Group.  You can reach him at

Monday, March 22, 2021

Smart Manufacturing – So Much More than Technology

 Authored by John Clemons, MESA Marketing Committee Chair, based on an interview with Roberto Giavazzi, MESA EMEA Board Member

MESA, Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association, was originally created as the Manufacturing Execution System Association some 30+ years ago. MESA was an overnight success through the creation of the original MES model which even today remains in use in every country in the world doing any level of manufacturing at all.

But the MES space evolved and so did MESA. Today the manufacturing world is abuzz with Smart Manufacturing, which are being driven by new technologies and new paradigms for manufacturing.

Today, Smart Manufacturing is looking beyond the technology, and beyond MES, to the supply chain, quality assurance, engineering, research and development, and many other areas, not just production.

As Roberto Giavazzi, a member of the MESA EMEA Board of Directors, says, “Smart Manufacturing requires a comprehensive look at the product lifecycle. It involves research and development, engineering, production, and the supply chain. It’s about understanding the gaps between as-engineered and as-built, between as-planned and as-produced, and between as-designed and as-utilized. These are all the crucial aspects that are key to Smart Manufacturing.”

MESA is developing a new MESA model focused on Smart Manufacturing. It builds on the existing MESA MES models but goes far beyond MES to focus on the breadth and depth of Smart Manufacturing.

Despite the promises of Smart Manufacturing, the landscape is more crowded than ever with everyone claiming to have the one “silver bullet” technology that generates all the benefits of Smart Manufacturing. Since no one really has a “silver bullet” there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world of Smart Manufacturing with no clear guidance at all.

And that’s where MESA and the new MESA model comes in. As Roberto says, “MESA is providing guidance in all the uncertainty around Smart Manufacturing. MESA is providing practitioners with confidence that they are heading in the right direction and not making any major mistakes. MESA is playing the role of the trusted advisor, and neutral advisor, providing clear guidance on what works and what doesn’t work, and why, in the world of Smart Manufacturing.”

This guidance from MESA is taking many forms. The cornerstone for guidance for Smart Manufacturing is the new MESA model, which is intended to cover the entire landscape of Smart Manufacturing by providing guidance, knowledge, examples, and above all else, practical advice on Smart Manufacturing from the perspective of technologies, capabilities, and lifecycles.

But, fundamentally it’s not about the technologies, as Roberto explains. “There’s so many new technologies coming together right now, and the synergy of those technologies is one of the key drivers for Smart Manufacturing. But Smart Manufacturing is fundamentally not about the technologies and people can’t rely on the technologies for their success with Smart Manufacturing. After all, everyone can buy the same technologies, but some companies succeed, and some companies fail. Ultimately, it’s about so much more than the technologies.”

Roberto is correct. It’s about so much more than the technologies. Namely, what you can do with the technologies. It’s about capabilities to meet the customer’s need. It’s about agility to respond quickly to changes in demand. It’s about being customer focused to make sure your products are really meeting the customer’s needs and solving their problems.

These elements are what will make or break any Smart Manufacturing initiative. Not the technology. The technology works. It’s what you do with the technology. It’s what the technology does for you and your company. That’s the secret to Smart Manufacturing. And that the focus of MESA and the new MESA model.

Stay tuned for more on the new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Smart Manufacturing – Protect Your Existing Investment

Authored by John Clemons, MESA Marketing Committee Chair, based on an interview with Raffaello Lepratti, MESA International Board Member

If you’ve been reading these blog posts, you know that MESA, the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association, is developing a new MESA model specifically for Smart Manufacturing. MESA has built its reputation on the models it’s created, especially the original MESA MES model that’s still in use in the MES space around the world.

But this new Smart Manufacturing model is different. And more challenging. I caught up with Raffaello Lepratti, a member of the MESA International Board of Directors, to ask him what was different about this model.

Raffaello had this to say. “A new model for Smart Manufacturing is a must to support manufacturers’ challenges of today and their preparedness for the future (including next-generation workforce development). But the new model cannot be rigid and cannot be monolithic. MESA has embraced this and is building a model that is designed to be flexible and agile, just like Smart Manufacturing is supposed to be.”

I went on to ask Raffaello why a new model was required. After all, there seems like there’s lot of models out there already. In fact, it seems everyone has some kind of Smart Manufacturing model. Why not just pick one and go with it?

Raffaello has this to say in response. “A new model is really crucial to support manufacturers digital transformation journey. For example, we need more clarity of terminology, methodology, and incremental steps to realize Smart Manufacturing, but right now there’s lots of confusion even about the basics of Smart Manufacturing. Said another way, there’s lots of noise and proliferation of technologies in the marketplace and people who are working full-time in this space are simply having a hard time keeping up with everything that’s going on.”

Rightly said by Raffaello, there is confusion in the marketplace, or noise as he calls it. People are misunderstanding what Smart Manufacturing is or even how different technologies fit together and how to practically realize it. Whether it’s IIoT, digital twin, digital thread, cloud, RFID, analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, or even MES, people are having a hard time seeing how it all fits together. And an even harder time seeing what a real-world solution could even look like.

I asked Raffaello how the new MESA Smart Manufacturing model is going to be different and how it will help this situation. Raffaello says, “the new MESA model will not be rigid, and it will not be monolithic. Fundamental to the new MESA model will be idea of selecting the right solution for the situation. Many companies have significant investments in IT and OT solutions in this space and they want to protect those investments and build on them. Not tear them down and start over. And they want to do it step-by-step, not all at once. The new MESA model will show people a path forward that gets them where they want to go while protecting their existing investments.”

I then asked Raffaello if the new MESA model was only about the technology. He said, “No. Of course not. Smart Manufacturing is not about technology. Sure, there’s lots of technology coming together to make Smart Manufacturing a reality. But it’s really not about the technology rather capabilities and lifecycles with practicality to realize the steps.”

“Many people see Smart Manufacturing as IT and OT and software but it’s really not. What Smart Manufacturing is really about business strategies and people and processes. It’s about your digital transformation. But since everything is digital today, a digital transformation is really a business transformation. It’s about building your business strategies, empowering your teams, and streamlining your processes, and then, and only then, providing the right technology to support those strategies, people, and processes. That’s what Smart Manufacturing is all about and that’s what the new MESA model is all about.”

Stay tuned for more on the new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The New MESA Model – Getting the Big Picture

Authored by John Clemons, MESA Marketing Committee Chair, based on an interview with Julie Fraser, long-time MESA Member and subject matter expert part of the MESA Model Sub-Committee.

MESA, the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association, is collectively taking a step back from the maelstrom that is Smart Manufacturing and working to make some sense of the chaos. They’re developing a new model specifically for Smart Manufacturing that will craft a new framework for Smart Manufacturing and help everyone get a much better feel for all the various aspects that make up the world of Smart Manufacturing.

I got a chance to talk with Julie Fraser, one of the subject matter experts working directly on the new MESA model, and one of the people that helped create the original MESA MES model that helped put MESA on the map.

Julie had this to say about the new MESA Smart Manufacturing model. “The problem space of Smart Manufacturing is just way too big to easily understand. There’s just so many facets to it that it’s almost impossible for one person to understand it all. That’s where MESA and our new model comes in.”

“The idea is for MESA to create a framework to help people understand the big picture of Smart Manufacturing and specifically the context for any kind of initiative they are undertaking. This will allow them to assess their efforts and better understand their priorities, creating a more unified approach and direction for them, since all of Smart Manufacturing is so intertwined.”

The new MESA model will be focused on lifecycles and common capabilities – which is nothing more than a simple yet comprehensive way to organize your approach to Smart Manufacturing. The idea is to put these elements into the new “possible”, the context of Smart Manufacturing.

There’s lots of models out there and that’s why MESA is working so hard to make sure the new model is pragmatic and usable. Maybe more than anything else, to ensure it is accessible to everyone working in this space so they can talk to each other and actually communicate.

I asked Julie what she thought the success criteria would be for the new MESA model. She had this to say. “The original MESA MES model has been used by just about everyone in the MES space around the world since it was created. Our intention at MESA is to build a model for Smart Manufacturing that will be used by everyone. It will help people communicate across diverse disciplines. It will provide alignment with business strategy, with busines and manufacturing processes, and with people across the entire enterprise. It will be pragmatic and extremely helpful to everybody.”

The new MESA model for Smart Manufacturing is really needed as a way think about all the various aspects in a logical fashion. Without a model like this, people are just overwhelmed. There’s no framework, no common language, no common baseline of understanding. That makes it hard to talk about things logically and especially hard to talk with people in other disciplines.

Julie explained it this way. “It’s like the parable about the blind men and the elephant. They each described the small part of the elephant that they touched, but none of them could see the whole elephant. The purpose of the new MESA model is to show people the whole elephant of Smart Manufacturing.”

It’s very ambitious for sure. But MESA has had a lot of success in developing models going all the way to the original MESA MES model. MESA has a core team of about a dozen people working on this new model. Teams are meeting and working pretty much every week, already producing draft concepts for the model components. MESA intends this model to be nothing less than groundbreaking and hopes the model will be used by virtually everyone around the world who works in the Smart Manufacturing space.

Stay tuned for more on the new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Why the New MESA Model is Really Needed

Authored by John Clemons, MESA Marketing Committee Chair, based on an interview with Jeff Winter, MESA International Board Member and member of the MESA Model Sub-Committee.

MESA International, the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association, is building a new Smart Manufacturing model to provide industry with a new perspective, and a new reference, for Smart Manufacturing.

The idea is to bridge the gap between the needs of individual users or practitioners and the various institutions that are trying to define Smart Manufacturing.

I asked Jeff Winter, one of the Subject Matter Experts on the MESA team building the new Smart Manufacturing model, what it was all about. “This is a tremendous opportunity to provide value to people actually working on Smart Manufacturing projects for their companies. You see, there’s lots of Smart Manufacturing models out there, and many of them help you evaluate your company at a high level, for Smart Manufacturing readiness or maturity. But they all have a major failure. They don’t provide a roadmap for you and our Smart Manufacturing project. They simply don’t address the use of the various technologies.”

That’s not to say that any of these existing models are bad. It’s just that they don’t tell the whole story. They help companies with only part of what they need to be successful. The idea of the new MESA model is to complement these organizations and their models to provide a definitive roadmap for companies and projects to use to know where to go and how to get there with Smart Manufacturing.

The new model will help people understand how to approach Smart Manufacturing and understand how Smart Manufacturing fits in with their business. With this new model, companies will be able to carve out their path to Smart Manufacturing projects, and ultimately Smart Manufacturing success. They’ll be able to see what Smart Manufacturing is all about, what needs to get done, and how it all impacts the other parts of their company.

I asked Jeff if he could elaborate on all this. “The problem with all these models is that they simply don’t address the technologies. For example, digital twin technology is very cool and very powerful, providing companies with significant benefits. But these models don’t explain what it is, when to use it, when not to use, where it fits, and why someone uses it. The models don’t explain what business benefits it achieves, the prerequisites for its use, the challenges to its use, and what’s really needed to successfully implement it. And that’s just one example. All of these models are deficient in that they don’t address these questions about the technologies – they very technologies that are driving Smart Manufacturing in the first place.”

The new MESA Smart Manufacturing model will address these questions about the technology, providing a roadmap so people can understand when, where, and why to use all these new technologies.

Jeff continues, “And more than that, the new model will address the impacts of these technologies to all the other areas of the company such as supply chain, production, networking, cybersecurity, data management, training, personnel, and so on. Because all these technologies have such a big impact on the company as a whole. You have to understand that, and you have to see it coming before you launch off on one of these projects.”

Fundamentally, the new MESA model will provide the roadmap, the steps needed to implement the technology and ultimately be successful with the technology. Because all these technologies require a level of maturity and companies have to learn to crawl before they walk and walk before they run with Smart Manufacturing. None of the technology is a silver bullet and much of the technology may not produce any benefits if the company is not ready or if the people are not ready.

And that’s the fundamental purpose of the new MESA model. To explain the technology to help people know when and where to use the technology, how to use it right, and how to make sure they get the benefits they want out of the technology. And, it some cases, to explain why they shouldn’t use the technology because they’re not ready yet.

Helping people use the technology, use it right, and get the benefits they want, that’s the ultimate purpose of the new MESA Smart Manufacturing model.

Stay tuned for more on the new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model.

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Practical Side of Smart Manufacturing

Authored by John Clemons, MESA Marketing Committee Chair, based on an interview with Jan-Christoph Galm, MESA EMEA Board Member and member of the MESA Model Sub-Committee.  

MESA, the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association, has embarked on the development of a new model for Smart Manufacturing. Many people have asked me, “Why? Why is MESA doing this? Aren’t there enough models out there already?”

Well, yes, there are. There’s lot of models out there that cover all sorts of aspects of Smart Manufacturing. But they all have one thing in common. They all approach Smart Manufacturing from a specific point of view.

Now, not all those points of view are bad. But an individual point of view may not work for everybody and someone who’s not that familiar with Smart Manufacturing may not realize that what they’re looking at is even based on a particular point of view.

And that’s the big difference between the other models that are out there and what MESA is doing. The new MESA Smart Manufacturing model is being developed from a completely neutral point of view. It is intended to cover the breadth and depth of smart manufacturing but from a completely unbiased and neutral point of view.

Here’s the way Jan-Christoph Galm, a member of MESA’s EMEA Board of Directors explained it. “The idea of the new MESA model for Smart Manufacturing is first and foremost to be transparent. It’s to be totally unbiased with no built-in preconceived notions or points of view on what Smart Manufacturing is. It’s to provide an unbiased view of the vision of the Smart Factory.”

Along these lines, the new MESA model for Smart Manufacturing will provide a framework to help everyone speak the same language and to get a baseline or foundation on what Smart Manufacturing is all about. It’s a common model and a common language. The people that use it then accept it as a common agreement on what’s what with regards to Smart Manufacturing.

According to Jan-Christoph, there’s much more to it than that. “The new MESA model will be practical. It does no one any good for MESA to put out another model that only academicians can use. Or a model that only a very few people can get past the first few pages. The MESA model will be practical, for everyone to use, from the shop floor to the top floor, from operations to engineering to IT to management.”

The new MESA model will be both high level and low level but making it easy to navigate from the highest levels to the lowest levels, and back again. All providing a step-by-step way for people to discuss through the levels and understand what Smart Manufacturing is all about.

Jan-Christoph also emphasizes the roots of MESA with regards to the new model. “MESA grew up with Manufacturing Execution Systems or MES and we haven’t forgotten those roots. The new MESA model will be focused on Smart Manufacturing but just as MES is a key part of Smart Manufacturing, MES will be a key part of the new MESA model. It’ll provide not only an understanding of Smart Manufacturing, but an understanding of MES, the benefits of MES, and how MES fits into Smart Manufacturing.”

The new MESA model will have something for everybody. It will be intentionally neutral, with no pre-conceived biases or points of view. It will be practical, providing a common vision and a common language for everyone to understand the basics of Smart Manufacturing. And it won’t forget MES, which is still a cornerstone of manufacturing operations and a key part of Smart Manufacturing.

Stay tuned for more on the new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Getting Excited About the New MESA Smart Manufacturing Model

Authored by John Clemons, MESA Marketing Committee Chair, based on an interview with Dennis Brandl, MESA GEP Instructor and member of the MESA Model Sub-Committee. 

Everyone in the manufacturing world says we’re in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution and Smart Manufacturing is transforming manufacturing back into an economic powerhouse. 

But what most people see is wave after wave of new technology with no real idea how any of it is supposed to fit together.

MESA, the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association, has started developing a new Smart Manufacturing Model, with the express purpose of providing everyone with a simple and easy-to-use framework for making sense out of everything that’s part of Smart Manufacturing.

Dennis Brandl, a member of the MESA team building this model, says, “Most people don’t understand how it all fits together. It’s really just a vast state of turbulence with just about every country having its own model for Smart Manufacturing. MESA is cutting through all this fluff to provide a comprehensive Smart Manufacturing model that people can actually use to understand what Smart Manufacturing is all about.”

The new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model will provide a way to look at a company’s manufacturing operations and get a view of the entire lifecycle of manufacturing. In fact, this concept of lifecycles is key to the new model. Whether it’s a product lifecycle, an asset lifecycle, or a lifecycle for the manufacturing personnel, this idea of lifecycles is a key to understanding the complete picture of the manufacturing operations and how Smart Manufacturing fits into this picture.

Dennis explains more of the purpose of the new MESA model. “It’s fundamentally going to be a way of looking at the problem space to make sure you don’t miss anything. It’s intended to cover everything you need to be concerned with in this space. It will help people decide what to do by helping them ask the hard questions and determine if they really have the answers they need.”

In this way the new MESA model can be thought of as a checklist at the highest level to make sure no one is missing any of the key concepts of Smart Manufacturing.

Manufacturing companies can use the new model to make sure they’re dealing with all the issues, especially the ones they haven’t thought of yet. And solution providers can use the new model to make sure they’re providing their customers with everything they need.

Dennis says he’s very excited about the new MESA model. He says, “This is going to be good for everyone. Smart Manufacturing is good for everyone. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

The new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model will be easily usable by everyone. It will be a key tool for everyone to use to understand Smart Manufacturing when they’re looking at anything related to Smart Manufacturing. 

The new model will show people the path and will show people the way. Ultimately it will be down-to-earth, showing people what really works, in a way they can understand.

It’s easy to get excited about the new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model. It will be a great tool to understand what’s really going on in Smart Manufacturing. It will help everyone make sure they’re asking the hard questions and dealing with the tough issues that will ultimately decide the success or failure of a Smart Manufacturing project. 

Stay tuned for more on the new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

B2MML-JSON Version Available from MESA

 Dennis Brandl, a member of MESA International

The latest release of B2MML from MESA International includes a JSON Schema specification of the ISA-88 and ISA-95 standards.  JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) a lightweight data-interchange format that is easy for humans to read and write and is easy for machines to parse and generate.  See for information on JSON.  It is an open standard for data exchange that is made up of attribute value pairs and array data types. JSON is language independent but uses conventions that are familiar to most programmers that know C, C++, C#, Java, JavaScript, Perl, Python, or any similar language. JSON is a lightweight alternative to XML and is often used in mobile applications and in Perl Python, and JavaScript applications.

JSON Schema is a grammar language for defining the structure, content, and (to some extent) semantics of JSON objects. See for information on JSON schemas.  Schemas specify metadata (data about data) about what an object's properties mean and what values are valid for those properties.  B2MML-JSON is derived from B2MML XSD definitions, using XMLSpy2021 from Altova (  B2MML-JSON is a complement to the B2MML XML format and will remain in sync with any changes to B2MML and ISA-95.  JSON is typically used with REST based message exchanges, and XML is typically used with web service (SOAP) based exchanges.

The B2MML-JSON schema definition includes all the transactions specified in ISA-95 Part 5, providing one of the first standard syntax for fully qualified JSON message transactions. JSON messages can be exchanged using the ISA-95 Part 6 Message Service model, and the associated implementation OpenO&M implementation. The OpenO&M ISBM (Information Service Bus Model) defines both a web service and a REST interface specification to message exchange systems, and supports the exchange of XML and JSON messages. See for more information. 

This is the first release of B2MML-JSON and it includes all BatchML and BatchML-GeneralRecipe elements.  The current B2MML-JSON has all elements in a single file (rather large), but the MESA B2MML committee is looking for feedback from users on the best way to partition and organize JSON Schema files.  B2MML-JSON users are encouraged to pick up B2MML V7 from the MESA web site at  B2MML V7 is also available on Github at   

Dennis Brandl is the Chief Consultant for BR&L consulting, specializing in Manufacturing IT and Flexible Manufacturing solutions.  He has been involved in MES, batch control, and automation system design and implementation in a wide range of applications over the past 30 years.  Dennis is an active member of the ISA 95 Enterprise/Control System Integration committee, the ISA 99 Cyber System Security committee, and the IEC/ISO Smart Manufacturing Working Group, and a regular contributor to industry magazines.  Mr. Brandl has a BS in Physics and an MS in Measurement and Control from Carnegie-Mellon University, and a MS in Computer Science from California State University.

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Dimensions of the New MESA Smart Manufacturing Model

Authored by John Clemons, MESA Marketing Committee Chair, based on an interview with Darren Riley, MESA ROI Justification Working Group Chair 

The work on the new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model is well underway with a team of people from a very wide variety of backgrounds all pitching in to create the new model. The team is working tirelessly to compile the knowledge and wisdom of MESA into a new model specifically for Smart Manufacturing which is both comprehensive and practical, providing a vision for Smart Manufacturing that everyone can use.

I got a chance to catch up with Darren Riley, one of the Subject Matter Experts on the MESA team developing the new model, to ask him what the model is looking like so far.

Darren had this to say. “The new MESA model will have many dimensions. We haven’t finalized all the names for all the dimensions yet, but for this discussion we can talk about them in terms of technologies, capabilities and lifecycles. The idea of the new model is for it to ready to use right out of the box, highly readable and not at all academic.”

There’s lots of technologies out there that are part of Smart Manufacturing. That’s what’s making Smart Manufacturing so significant and so powerful, all the diverse technologies coming together producing solutions that are so much greater than the sum of their parts.

While the new MESA model is really not about all these technologies, they will be included in the model as low-level components so people can understand where they fit, can understand that the technologies are just tools and they can understand that ultimately it’s not about the technologies, it’s about what you can do with the technologies.

Darren continued with these thoughts on the new MESA model. “There’s lot of standards and models out there and the new MESA model is not really meant to replace any of them. The new MESA model will help people interpret the standards, provide best practices for Smart Manufacturing, and provide the best approaches to Smart Manufacturing. Moreover, the new MESA model is intended to be a natural evolution from the previous MESA models. MESA has been very successful in building very down-to-earth, practical and usable models over the years and this new model is intended to be a natural extension of that work.”

One more problem many people at MESA have seen is that while there are lots of models and standards out there, there’s not a lot of practical advice, with emphasis here on the word ‘practical’.

Along these lines, Darren continues with his explanation of the new MESA model. “One of the things we are wanting to put into the new MESA model is specific real-world scenarios. The idea is to provide specific guidance on what to do and what not to do in the realm of Smart Manufacturing. These scenarios would provide examples, expertise, and guidance to practical real-world problems. These scenarios will help people fill in the gaps when they don’t know how to proceed, when the problems seem too complex and when the whole world of Smart Manufacturing just seems too big to tackle.”

Ultimately the new model will continue the MESA legacy and be a natural evolution to the models MESA has produced over the years. Yes, the new model will have new dimensions such as capabilities, lifecycles and technologies. But it will still above all else provide guidance to practitioners and provide a practical down-to-earth vision of what Smart Manufacturing can and should be.

Darren says, “The academics aren’t going to be happy at all. But the practitioners, the people in the trenches that actually have to do this stuff, will be immensely pleased. Finally, they will have a model that makes sense, that’s readable and that they can actually use to get some work done. That’s a win for everyone.”

Stay tuned for more on the new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model.


Monday, December 7, 2020

New Version of B2MML-BatchML Available from MESA

 Authored by Dennis Brandl, a member of MESA International

MESA International just announced the release of Version 7 of the widely used B2MML and BatchML specifications. Version 7 brings the ISA-95 and B2MML specifications completely in sync.  The extensions that were in B2MML because of user requests have been incorporated into the ISA-95 2018/2019 releases, and B2MML was updated to match new models added to the ISA-95 standards.  These include a complete test model for materials, personnel, equipment, and physical assets, linked to operations requests and work requests.  This B2MML version also adds spatial location information to all resources, allowing tracking of remote equipment, personal, and stored material.  The ISA-95 work calendar model was added to B2MML to allow the exchange of shift definitions, vacation specifications, and other calendar related events.  A standardized error message was added to B2MML, simplifying integration projects, and providing better debugging of integration problems.  

One major addition in B2MML V7 are Operations Events, a new model in ISA-95 that supports event driven architectures. Event driven architecture are often applied to integration of systems made up of loosely coupled software components and services, a target market for the B2MML specification.  B2MML V7 supports the definition of event classes, and then the exchange of event information as operations events occur.  

B2MML V7 also includes a Master Data Profile schema, derived from the ISA TR95.01 Master Data Profile Template, allowing for the exchange of configuration information in a single file. A single B2MML Master Data Profile document can be imported by multiple applications, reducing the time, effort, and errors associated with integration projects. 

Because of the changes in the ISA-95 specification, B2MML V7 is not fully backward compatible with Version 6, but the changes are minor. These include the new Testing Model and changes to a few attribute names, mostly related to Hierarchy Scope and Locations.  B2MML users are encouraged to pick up B2MML V7 from the MESA web site at    

Bio: Dennis Brandl is the Chief Consultant for BR&L consulting, specializing in Manufacturing IT and Flexible Manufacturing solutions.  He has been involved in MES, batch control, and automation system design and implementation in a wide range of applications over the past 30 years.  Dennis is an active member of the ISA 95 Enterprise/Control System Integration committee, the ISA 99 Cyber System Security committee, and the IEC/ISO Smart Manufacturing Working Group, and a regular contributor to industry magazines.  Mr. Brandl has a BS in Physics and an MS in Measurement and Control from Carnegie-Mellon University, and a MS in Computer Science from California State University.

Monday, November 30, 2020

The Value of the New MESA Smart Manufacturing Model

 Authored by John Clemons, MESA Marketing Committee Chair, based on an interview with Corey Vodvarka, MESA International Board and Americas Board Member. 

The fourth industrial revolution is creating a step change in the way the manufacturing industries are operating. New technologies, new software, and even new ways of manufacturing are all part of Smart Manufacturing.

In the middle of all this, MESA, the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association, is creating a new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model.  This new model will be a straightforward, easy-to-use model to help people understand all the myriad aspects of smart manufacturing.

Corey Vodvarka, a member of the MESA International Board and MESA Americas Board, describes the new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model this way. “The new MESA model will be a great educational tool and a great time saving tool. It will help explain Industrie 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing, helping people get up to speed very quickly on the aspects of Smart Manufacturing that really matter. It will help people concentrate just on the most pivotal aspects of Smart Manufacturing, so they aren’t lost in the weeds of technology and vendor hype.”

The new MESA model is intended to set the baseline for conversations about Smart Manufacturing and provide a starting point for communications between different functional groups in a manufacturing company and between manufacturing companies and their suppliers and distributers. In short, the new MESA model will help people get on the same page very quickly and have meaningful conversations about Smart Manufacturing.

That means manufacturing companies shouldn’t get stuck in analysis paralysis mode and should be able to get to decisions a lot quicker.

Corey continues his thoughts on the value of the new MESA model by saying, “The new model will provide guidance on what a good Smart Manufacturing solution looks like and what a bad solution looks like. A good solution will cover the critical points outlined in the new model and a bad solution will miss all the critical points. Pointing out good and bad solutions is one of the key values of the new MESA model.”

Getting people using a common Industrie 4.0 language and providing a common Smart Manufacturing baseline will provide manufacturing companies with the confidence they need to proceed with their Smart Manufacturing projects. Lack of confidence often leads to what is sometimes called “pilot purgatory”, where the manufacturing company is always in a state of piloting new technology but reluctant to really do anything substantial.

And that leads to what Corey calls the biggest benefit of the new MESA model, pointing the way to value. “The new MESA model will clearly show the expected benefits of Smart Manufacturing technology. The model will point the way to specific benefits. It will give manufacturing companies the confidence that if they implement specific solutions then they will achieve specific benefits. It will connect the dots between capabilities and benefits.”

In fact, the new MESA model will connect the dots between all things Smart Manufacturing, what they really mean, how to implement them, and, most importantly, what the benefits really are and how to make sure you achieve the benefits.

There’s going to be a lot of aspects of the new MESA model to fully account for all the many technologies that are part of Smart Manufacturing. But the main focus is clear. It’s about the benefits. It’s always about the benefits. Technology for technology’s sake just doesn’t make business sense.

The new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model will connect the dots between the technologies and the benefits, clearly pointing out good solutions that deliver benefits and bad solutions that are just technology. Fundamentally, that’s what the new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model is all about.

Stay tuned for more on the new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Getting the New MESA Smart Manufacturing Model Off the Ground

Authored by John Clemons, MESA Marketing Committee Chair, based on an interview with Khris Kammer, MESA Knowledge Committee Chair. 

The world of manufacturing is undergoing a significant step change. Terms like Smart Manufacturing, Digital Transformation, and Industrie 4.0 are top of mind for many executives. There are many new technologies coming together to create AI solutions, digital twins, digital threads, the industrial internet of things, AR/VR solutions, and a whole lot more. This smart technology, along with a lot of smart people, are creating the fourth industrial revolution and driving economic growth through manufacturing.

With all this technology coming together, everyone seems to be looking at it from their own points of view. This means there’s a good bit of confusion out there with practitioners not sure about how all this technology fits together or how all this technology really achieves the benefits everyone claims.

MESA, the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association, is developing a new Smart Manufacturing Model that will cut through the hype and the fluff, and provide simple, easy-to-use model for Smart Manufacturing.

MESA formed a new team of industry experts who are now meeting on a regular basis to create the new MESA Smart Manufacturing model. The team is extremely experienced and includes people who’ve developed previous versions of MESA models as well as industry standards.

The team comes from a wide range of backgrounds, representing manufacturing companies, solution providers, and industry analysts. It’s a very strong mix of experienced individuals from a wide range of roles. Engineering, automation, information technology, operations technology, operations management, executive management, and research and development are just a few of the roles represented.

The team also comes from a wide variety of industries with the intent for the model to be completely industry agnostic, with the ability to tailor it to specific industries and business models. Individuals from process industries, batch industries, discrete industries, and hybrid industries are all included.

Khris Kammer, the chairman of the MESA Knowledge Committee, who is helping lead the team, says, “The group is very excited to work on the new MESA Smart Manufacturing model. New technologies are converging in the form of Smart Manufacturing and Industry 4.0. But, more than just the technologies, tough market conditions are driving companies to think differently about their manufacturing operations. Maybe for the first time ever, C-suite executives are collectively understanding the importance of their manufacturing operations and developing new and exciting visions for the future, all built on the role Smart Manufacturing should play in their companies.”

There’s no doubt we’re in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, but the size and the impact are still up to us. That’s why MESA is building this new model, to add even more power to the revolution and ensure that its impact is global, substantial, and long-lasting.

A model, which is typically defined as an abstract definition of something that exists in the real world, needs structures to make it work. The MESA team has decided that the highest-level structure in the new model will be the “lifecycle”.

This makes a lot of sense because everything has a lifecycle. The team is working on finalizing the breadth and the depth of the lifecycles that will be in the model, with leading candidates including the product lifecycle, the asset lifecycle, the personnel lifecycle, and the supply chain lifecycle, just to name a few. Each lifecycle will have multiple functions defined within it, which combined, provide manufacturers with the complete solutions they need for their businesses.

To make the new model applicable to real world situations, and thus more valuable, the team is modeling the interactions between the various lifecycles and detailing the technology threads which span across the lifecycles. Example technology threads include cybersecurity, quality & regulatory compliance, cloud computing, and AI / Machine Learning, with several more threads being considered.

The team intends for the model to be used by virtually everyone in the industrial space. Khris explains this idea: “The new Smart Manufacturing model will break the landscape into manageable pieces so that everyone can understand the components. It will serve both as a reference model and as a prescriptive model. By detailing the individual pieces and their interactions, it will provide everyone that uses the model with common points of view necessary to understand and communicate about the entire Smart Manufacturing landscape. This will help them evaluate solutions, technologies, and offerings, to ultimately determine how well they fit their own businesses.”

Everyone that uses the model will speak a common language. Whether it’s solution providers, manufacturing companies, end users, analysts, engineering companies, or whomever, by using the model, they will have a common language and a common understanding of the Smart Manufacturing landscape.

Khris goes on to explain why the team is so excited about the new MESA Smart Manufacturing model. “The team is excited and inspired. There are a lot of drivers in the industry, ranging from new technologies to new challenges, and these drivers are resulting in new business models. We’re seeing the opportunity for a step change in industry, and we have to take advantage of it. We cannot drop back to business as usual. We must embrace these changes and build on them, giving this revolution more momentum.”

This really is a great time to be in manufacturing. There are new technologies. There are new business models. There’s excitement about manufacturing from the C-suite on down like we’ve never seen before, and there are more people talking about manufacturing than we’ve ever seen before.

The new MESA Smart Manufacturing model is looking to build on that excitement. It will help point the way to the future and give everyone a framework for truly understanding the value of Smart Manufacturing. It’s a good day to be in manufacturing and the new MESA model will point the way to an even brighter future. 

Stay tuned for more on the new MESA Smart Manufacturing Model.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Financial Analytics that Support Manufacturing Excellence

My expertise is accounting and finance, so some manufacturers may look upon this blog with a bit of suspicion.  I understand.  Beyond evaluating cash flow, traditional accounting and financial reporting conventions and practices have done a poor, perhaps even dysfunctional, job of supporting manufacturing operational improvements and has often been a hurdle or roadblock.

The new (3/31/2020) update of the MESA Manufacturing Analytics Guidebook emphasizes, provides references, and give many examples of the improvements and changes to financial models and information that are needed to support modern manufacturing analytics.  The biggest change needed is the mindset of CEO’s, CFO’s, and everyone in accounting and finance.  The new mindset must focus on supporting manufacturing with usable and actionable information that reflects operations clearly (and quickly) and supports internal decision making.   The façade that traditional accounting and finance information provides any sort of “control” over manufacturing must end!

The MESA Manufacturing Analytics Guidebook presents a “Bill of Rights for Managerial Cost Information Users” developed by the Center for Managerial Costing Quality (, now called the Profitability Analytics Center for Excellence (

Definition: Managerial Costing supports decision makers tasked with optimally achieving their organization’s strategic objectives. Decision makers at all levels of an organization should be provided managerial cost information that:

1. Clearly reflects the causal operational relationships of resources, their capacity and the processes that produce the organization’s outputs 
2. Calculates and reports reliable and actionable information on costs of processes, products, service lines, channels, missions and customers
3. Reflects the economic realities of the decision at hand, unhindered by external regulatory accounting rules 
4. Is consistent with the organization’s creation of long-term sustainable value or the long-term execution of the organization’s mission 
5. Doesn’t lead to argument and debate about its usefulness and accuracy 
6. Is readily available, sufficiently detailed and logically structured to improve visibility, facilitate analysis and provide insights

Resolution: Decision-making is challenging in all circumstances. Decision makers at all levels of an organization must ensure that those providing cost information for their decision-making honor these rights that are essential to effectively execute their management responsibilities.”

If you are looking for better financial metrics to support manufacturing, particularly as you adopt Industry 4.0 practices, The MESA Manufacturing Analytics Guidebook is a great starting place to get guidance and perspective on what decision support oriented financial information should look like.

About the Author

Larry R. White, CMA, CSCA, CFM, CPA, is the Executive Director of the Resource Consumption Accounting Institute ( which focuses on improving financial decision support in organizations and is a member of the MESA Analytics Working Group  He is a former Global Chairman of the Institute of Management Accountants, former member of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board, and currently a member of the International Federation of Accountants Professional Accountants in Business Committee.  He is a retired Captain, US Coast Guard, with a career primarily in financial management and worked for Deloitte as a Senior Business Advisor. He has written a bimonthly column for Automation World magazine 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Smart Manufacturing as a Cultural Change – Part 2: Managing the Cultural Upheaval

Conrad Leiva, Stefan Zippel 

In Part 1 of this article, we discussed that the move to a Smart Manufacturing ecosystem is not just about adopting new technology. There is a required organizational culture change that goes along with the business process changes to assure the success of achieving high levels of transparency, threaded business processes, and integrated transactions in the value chain. In this Part 2, we discuss some important considerations for managing the people dimension of the transformation. 

There are three natural forces that hinder transformation in mature organizations. The first challenge for many organizations is that the existing organizational culture is deeply ingrained. There are legacy patterns and shared assumptions that have worked for years successfully solving problems and these are passed down to new team members as best practices. Legacy thinking can make it hard to institutionalize new processes encouraging transparency, collaboration, and viewing external resources as partners instead of suppliers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Smart Manufacturing as a Cultural Change – Part 1: Managing the Business Transformation

Conrad Leiva, Stefan Zippel   

There is a misunderstanding preventing us from unlocking the true potential of Smart Manufacturing and the digital transformation. A misunderstanding that revolves around the notion that it is all about technology, and this is reinforced by the many definitions and tactics used by some software vendors when they promote their technologies as “the solution”.

This misunderstanding is not a new phenomenon. If you have been working in manufacturing automation for the last few decades, you have seen this before. We have been telling people that it is not about the technology for years, but the hype of new technology seems to be irresistible.
Evidence of this misunderstanding is clear in the fact that surveys reveal that 70% of IoT and digital transformation projects fail. [1,2] A recurring theme in these project “failures” is that they are focused on trialing technologies with an overconfidence that technology alone can achieve great productivity gains. However, many of these projects in hindsight reveal a modest ROI and end up shelved.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Common Myths Hamper Progress on Industrial Cybersecurity

Eric C. Cosman, MESA Cybersecurity Working Group Chairman 

Just as with other initiatives directed at preventing negative consequences, efforts to reduce or mitigate cybersecurity risks often have to counter beliefs or perceptions that may be inaccurate or incorrect. Analysts and industry observers have identified several common “myths” and provided arguments to counter these beliefs. While many of these myths were originally highlighted in the context of general purpose of business systems cybersecurity, they often apply equally to industrial systems.

Members of the MESA cybersecurity working group have discussed many of these myths and shared experiences and observations that can be used to counter them. The group has decided to share this information with MESA members in hopes that it can be used in describing the imperative for an effective response in the form of a comprehensive cybersecurity management system. Group members will address several common myths in separate blog posts over the following weeks and months. These include:
  • We are safe because we are not connected to the Internet.
  • Our firewalls protect us.
  • Hackers do not understand industrial systems.
  • We are an unlikely target for attack.
  • Safety backup system will protect us.
We welcome questions, observations, counter arguments or other comments as we conduct this dialog.


The following sources were used to identify topics to be addressed in this series:
  1. DarkReading: 8 Cybersecurity Myths Debunked (
  2. Cybersecurity Magazine: The Top 5 Cybersecurity Myths That Need to Die (
  3. Cybint Solutions: 10 Cybersecurity Myths You Need to Stop Believing (
  4. Forbes: These Are 10 Cybersecurity Myths That Must Be Busted (
  5. Gartner: Cybersecurity Myths of the Industrial IoT (
  6. Abisham: Industrial Cybersecurity Top Myths Busted (

About the Author
Eric C. Cosman
Principal Consultant
OIT Concepts LLC

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Smart Manufacturing Update from the MESA Community Feud

Conrad Leiva, MESA International, Smart Manufacturing WG Chairman

MESA had a recent web event focused on Smart Manufacturing with a game show type of format and an opportunity for the audience to participate through polls. The Smart Manufacturing Community Feud was initially inspired on the Family Feud game show, but the idea was modified to an interactive format with the webcast viewers.

I came out of the experience with the following observations based on the responses from peers in the community. These echoed many of the opinions we have received at workshops and regular calls with the MESA Smart Manufacturing Community members.  
  • There is still a big percentage of manufacturers that have not fully embraced the Smart Manufacturing journey, but the industry leaders are starting to share their success stories and initiatives are becoming more prevalent.
  • However, over half of the companies polled reported a mismatch between their Smart Manufacturing goals and the vision portrayed at conferences. Many have set their expectations for Smart Manufacturing much lower.  This aligns with previous surveys where there seems to be a 50-50% split on people focused on cost reduction and optimization versus business transformation and new business models.
  • The vast majority believe that workers will be part of the factory of the future, but they will be augmented by co-bots, exoskeletons, and AI-driven assistants.
  •  Most agree that we do not need more data than we are collecting today. Having data does not seem to be the problem. We are either not collecting the right data, or we are not organizing, relating and modeling the existing data in ways that enable better use of analytical tools.
  •  The most surprising response was the excitement around digital twins. There is a significant percent counting on the results of digital twin initiatives as an essential part of their business model. However, there is concern about the investment required and the effort to align multiple parallel initiatives among different departments working on simulation models and digital twin type of functionality. 
  •  Many are expecting security and privacy standards to evolve quickly and become the new norm in the industry for the entire supply chain. There is also enthusiasm behind blockchain as a technology that can help with data exchanges among value chain partners.
  • When asked about MES/MOM, the popular opinion is that MES is evolving as a central repository of contextualized data. However, many also believe it will also be divided up into smaller modular apps. These are not mutually exclusive options. The MES platform can be designed to provide the data layer separately and allow varied modular apps to interact with the data layers via APIs.

To hear the Smart Manufacturing Community Feud – Episode 1 click on this link.

For more information on how to join the MESA Smart Manufacturing Community click on the following link.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Improving Customer Trust in the Smart Manufacturing Supply Chain

By: Dave Noller & Conrad Leiva

The manufacturing and consumer market are getting more competitive every day with a lot of options for the buyer available on the shelf or just a few clicks away. Brand differentiation is important to remain top of mind for buying decisions. For example, in the food industry, more than 80% of food consumers consider the impact of how and where food was produced when making a purchase. Trends show that consumers want to know more than just the nutritional information - they want to know the food’s origin, when it was grown, and how. What are the demands in your industry? How is your company innovating to stay ahead of the curve?

This article focuses on examples from the food industry, but the lessons learned can be applied to supply chains in other industries. For example, the bar is rising for safety, quality and traceability in other markets like pharma, medical devices, automotive and aerospace. Companies are moving beyond regulatory compliance in these industries. They want to get ahead of customer demands and make sure their supply chain can meet these data and traceability requirements.

Monday, October 21, 2019

A Plant Is a Symphony of Challenges and Choices

By John Meulemeester, MESA Commercial Leader

I have visited literally hundreds of production plants, from producing radios, cars and bricks to soup and chemical ingredients. I can tell you, there is hardly such a thing as a “standard production line in a factory”. If you know one company that has an ‘identical’ production line in two plants, please let me know.

I compare this to music. Universally limited to only 12 notes… it creates an infinite number of “songs and symphonies”.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

MESA Member Q&A: Chris Hamilton, Co-Chair of MESA’s Cybersecurity Working Group

By Shaunna Balady, Member, MESA International Marketing Committee

As part of our ‘MESA Proud’ campaign, we’re shining some light on various members who help this nonprofit continue to be an important network for IT education and collaboration in the Smart Manufacturing and MES/MOM space.

First up, we have Chris Hamilton, Co-Chair of MESA’s Cybersecurity Working Group. Chris shares an overview on what it’s like to be in the working group, why he is a MESA member and his personal hobbies.

Q: As Co-Chair of MESA’s Cybersecurity Working Group, what type of issues does the group seem to be focused on?
A: The group is focused on taking industry security standards like ISA-62443, SP 800-82, CIS CSC, ISO/IEC 27001, NIST Ver. 1.1, etc and making those accessible and understandable to all MESA members as related to cybersecurity issues in manufacturing and/or industrial systems. 
Additionally, the group has created a number of blog articles which address the topic of security in an effort to bring awareness, education, and knowledge sharing.
Further, the group is active in trying to provide guidance on dealing with end of extended support issues around Windows XP and Server 2003 and upcoming for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. View upcoming meeting dates to participate.