Smart manufacturing isn’t so smart without standards

Successful manufacturers will need to incorporate smart technologies that allow them to adapt to changes while optimizing energy and other resources, but they need to follow standards in order to be successful.

By Simon Frechette, KC Morris, and Yan Lu June 8, 2016

Manufacturers face increasing demands of variability—greater customization, smaller lot sizes, sudden supply chain changes and disruptions. Successful manufacturers will need to incorporate new technologies that help them quickly adapt to rapid change and to elevate product quality while optimizing use of energy and other resources. These technologies form the core of emerging "smart" manufacturing systems.

Smart manufacturing is composed of information-centric systems that maximize the flow and re-use of data throughout an enterprise. Manufacturing enterprises today, both large and small, are made up of disparate components. The ability of these disparate systems to exchange, understand, and exploit product, production, and business data rests critically on information standards.

Smart manufacturing systems (SMS) are helping drive gains in production agility, quality, and efficiency. Smart manufacturing defines a vision of next-generation manufacturing with enhanced capabilities. It is built on Internet of Things (IoT) and digital technology, but is enabled by combining individual manufacturing technologies.

Why standards matter

The U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a report [1] that identified top-priority transformative manufacturing technologies: advanced sensing & control, visualization, informatics, and digital manufacturing. These technologies enhance the manufacturer’s ability to respond to information quickly and efficiently, but they in turn rely on the effective information flow and system responsiveness that only standards can provide across multiple vendor solutions in the product value chain.

The PCAST report noted that standards spur the adoption of new technologies, products and manufacturing methods. Standards allow a more dynamic and competitive marketplace, without hampering the opportunity to differentiate. Development of standards reduces the risks for enterprises developing and implementing solutions to accelerate adoption of new manufactured products and manufacturing methods.

Standards are the building blocks that provide for repeatable processes and the composition of different technological solutions to achieve a robust end result. Standards come in many varieties and forms.

Standards for manufacturing are primarily voluntary consensus standards. This means they are set by a standards organization based on the consensus of the partners who will be using them. In addition, these types of standards are enforced by voluntary compliance. Such standards are designed to open new market opportunities to their users. The standards supporting SMS range from those for information technology and communication through those that govern enterprises and supply chains.

Standards landscape

The totality of manufacturing standards can be confusing. A U.S. National Institute of Standards (NIST) report [2] provides a review of the body of pertinent standards—a standards landscape—upon which future smart manufacturing systems will rely. The report is designed to help manufacturing practitioners to better navigate the standards useful to integration of smart manufacturing technologies.

The SMS standards’ landscape is based on a smart-manufacturing ecosystem that encompasses three dimensions: Product, production systems, and enterprise (business) systems.

The landscape associates existing standards with the lifecycle phases of the three dimensions. It identifies areas where the integration of functions within and across these dimensions will result in more effective systems. The report also identifies key standards’ organizations working in the area, types of standards in each of the three dimensions, and how these all come together to support manufacturing operations on the shop floor—the area referred to as the manufacturing pyramid.

Standards advancement

Top priority areas for standards advancement to enable smart manufacturing include:

  • An SMS reference model and reference architecture
  • An IoT reference architecture for manufacturing
  • Manufacturing service models
  • Machine-to-machine communication (M2M)
  • PLM/MES/ERP/SCM/CRM integration
  • Cloud manufacturing
  • Manufacturing sustainability
  • Manufacturing cybersecurity. 

In order to get proactively involved and get more information on the different groups and consortia that are coordinating the evolution of these standards, see the report, "MESA Whitepaper #52: Smart Manufacturing–The Landscape Explained" [3].

Simon Frechette, KC Morris, Yan Lu are members of the systems integration division in the engineering laboratory at the U.S. National Institute of Standards (NIST). This article originally appeared on MESA International’s blog. MESA International is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media,

ONLINE extra

See additional stories about smart manufacturing linked below.


[1] "Report to the President – Accelerating the U.S. Advanced Manufacturing," Executive Office of the President – President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, October 2014.

[2] "Smart Manufacturing Standards Landscape," Lu, Morris, Frechette, NIST IR 8107, National Institute of Standards and Technology, February, 2016. 

[3] "MESA Whitepaper #52: Smart Manufacturing–The Landscape Explained," MESA International, 2015.