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ISO 15926 Primer

Status of this document: Working Draft

This is the beginning of the Primer for ISO 15926. It is open for feedback in the forum at the bottom of this page. You need a login to post in the forum.

Why Do We Need ISO 15926?

The short answer is: "So we can exchange complex plant and project information easier and cheaper."

A slightly longer answer is: "To mitigate the current high costs of rekeying and reformatting information to move it from one proprietary system to another."

For example, take the task of designing, specifying, and purchasing a process instrument for a plant modification. Imagine how many times information has to be rekeyed after the instrument is basically designed, until it is installed and commissioned in the target plant:

  1. After design, enter the information into the project datastore, likely an Excel spreadsheet, or a database.
  2. For quotation, a procurement officer assembles serveral sets of data sheets and sends a set to each bidder.
  3. Each bidder will read the datasheets and enter some of the data values into proprietary software to make a selection, then compose a quotation and send to the EPC.
  4. During the design of an instrument the engineer will usually only specify the properties that that are necessary for the process conditions. However there are many other properties that must be known, but are dependent on the manufacturer. After the vendor is chosen this information must be entered into the plant design system from the vendor's quotation.
  5. Datasheet turnover to the client will likely be something like an excel file for each datasheet.
  6. The owner will rekey certain data values into an asset management system.

[Feedback Requested. We want to end up with all of instances, in this information chain, of having to rekey information that 15926 will mitigate]

The situation is improving. A few years ago we would have faxed the datasheets the vendors who would manually add their information and fax them back--now we email editable electronic files. There are also proposals to streamline the final handover from and EPC so that it the information is already in the form required for the owner's Asset Management System--but the configuration costs speak to the complexity of the issue.

What we need is a way for each participant's software to be able to communicate complex information to each other without having to know in advance things like database structure or format.

ISO 15926 is a Babel Fish

If you wanted to listen to Vogon poetry spoken in the original dialect, you might use a Babel Fish.

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The Babel Fish would listen to the Vogon speaking, then rearrange the syntax and translate all the words all on the fly, so to speak.

ISO 15926 acts like a Babel Fish by acting as an interpreter between two otherwise incompatible systems.

Example: Exchanging Instrument Information Using ISO 15926

Compare the process instrument example above to doing the same thing with ISO 15926 tools.

Initial data entry is the same:

  1. After design, enter the information into the project datastore, likely an Excel spreadsheet, or a database.

But thereafter, tools written to support the ISO 15926 standard extract the relevant information automatically:

  1. For quotation, a procurement officer will expose the Request for Quotation on his company's public interface, known as a "facade", then include the URL in an email to the bidders.
  2. By connecting to the EPC's facade, each vendor will be able to pull in the relevent information for each instrument. A human sales engineer could then read the information and manually make decisions in the same manner we use today. However, because it is in ISO 15926 format, the instrument information will be rich enough that analysis, decisions, and composition of a preliminary quotation will be able to be done by a computer program. The sales engineer will only have to review the quotation before submitting the bid to the EPC.
  3. After selecting the winning bidder, the engineer will point his plant design system to the vendor's facade and pull in any vendor-supplied information.
  4. Data turnover to the client will simply require exposing the plant information database on the EPC's facade.
  5. The owner will open the link to the engineer's plant information database and import whichever data values are of interest.

You can see that if we use 15926 tools we are removing a great many opportunities for human error. So in addition to being able to transfer information faster, by removing the labor-intensive tasks, the whole process will be more reliable.

How ISO 15926 Makes Sharing Information Easier

ISO 15926 is a world-wide standard interchange format for rendering complex information about plant objects into a common format. By using a common interface we will all be able to communicate without having to know anything about each other's data storage configuration. Everyone will still have their own datastores, perhaps in a proprietary format, but will employ a Babel Fish (known as a "facade") when they exchange information with others.

Thus, a consortium of EPCs will be able to collaborate on designing a plant, each using its chosen plant design system with proprietary work processes. They will be able to share information without having to know anything about each other's data storage format beforehand.

During design, vendor's and EPC's software will be able to connect to each other passing information back and forth much easier.

Information turnover from EPC to Owner will be a non-issue. Owners will be able to receive the plant data by connecting to the EPC's Babel Fish (i.e., facade) and then store it in the their own format.

After information turnover, any of the owner's computer systems will be able to use the information. For instance, a Plant Operations System will be able to access the pieces of information it needed. A Plant Maintenance System will be able to access just the pieces it needed. Each application will take the pieces it needs and ignore the rest.

Owners will be able to harmonize maintenance systems between production facilities that have incompatible information storage formats.

The Opportunity

Once a critical mass of plant information is available through ISO 15926-compliant facades, niche applications will become viable. Currently, the high cost of aquiring information from proprietary data stores impedes all but the most high-value initiatives. But when a niche application can access plant information in a format that is predictable in advance, aquiring input data will be trivial.

Example: A calculation to optimize a chemical reaction where precise history and the exact instrumentation and equipment are significant variables.


An introduction to ISO 15926 showing some of the issues in making information interoperable between computer systems.

Introduction to ISO 15926



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