Technical Article

Common Industrial Automation Standards and Guidelines

June 28, 2021 by Muhammad Asim Niazi

Learn about industrial standards, such as functional safety or cybersecurity, that are set by organizations such as the ISO or ISA.

A previous article discussed some common certifications and standards and how companies can make decisions about which standards to adopt based on their process. This article will discuss additional standards organizations like the ISO and ISA.

The ISO and ISA are two of the most influential expert standardization bodies. ISO develops standards for different industries and their departments. ISA develops standards solely for the electronic and electrical automation industry. Their accreditation increases the process’s integrity, safety, and authenticity.

It is becoming common for industries to adopt standards for their different processes. Standards provide industries many progressive ways to execute their operations with a high degree of productivity and safety. The standards allow the industry to benefit from the experience, knowledge, and skill of the standardization body, and other industries worldwide.


International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an organization that develops standards. Unlike UL and CSA, the ISO is not a certification company. The user organization executes its processes following the ISO standards. Examples include natural and applied sciences, healthcare technology, environment, health, and safety (EHS), engineering, information technology, and aircraft and space vehicle engineering. 


An engineer following the standards set by the ISO and ISA to stay compliant within the facility. 


The external bodies follow standards developed by the ISO for the certification process. This is managed separately by another ISO committee, known as ISO's Committee on Conformity Assessment (CASCO). The CASCO provides guidelines for different bodies such as requirements for the certification bodies, testing, calibration, and laboratory validation.

When indicating certification status, the ISO recommends a full state standard (i.e., ISO 9001:2015) instead of the only ISO certification. Some common and important ISO standards include ISO 9001:2015 (quality management system), ISO/IEC 27001:2013 (information technology), and ISO/IEC 14001:2015 (environmental management system).

International Accreditation Forum (IAF) is the association for international organizations willing to cooperate with the ISO certification process in management systems, products, services, personnel, and other similar conformity assessment programs. Meanwhile, International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) is responsible for certification bodies and testing laboratories using the following standards. 

  • ISO/IEC 17025
  • Medical testing laboratories (ISO/IEC 15189)
  • Inspection bodies (ISO/IEC 17020)
  • Proficiency testing providers (ISO/IEC 17043)
  • ISO/IEC 17011


International Society of Automation (ISA)

International Society of Automation (ISA) is the certification and standardization body for automation and control. ISA develops automation standards for different industries and provides accreditation to automation professionals in their fields. It is also involved in training programs through books and article publications, exhibitions, and conferences.


ISA Standards

ISA develops a standard for automation in key areas such as safety, enterprise integration, wireless communications, instrumentation, measurement, and control. It is also setting standards for cybersecurity in industrial applications.


A process engineer working with a batch control system in a pharmaceutical facility. 


American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has accredited ISA for developing standards. They also publish standards through the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Some ISA standards include the following.

  • Management of alarm systems for the process industries (ISA-18/IEC 62682)
  • Functional safety: Safety instrumented systems for the process industry sector (ISA-84/IEC 61511)
  • Batch control systems (ISA-88/IEC 61512)
  • Enterprise-control system integration (ISA-95/IEC 62264)
  • Cybersecurity for industrial automation and control systems (ISA-99/IEC 62443)
  • Wireless systems for automation (ISA-100/IEC 62734)
  • Instrumentation symbols and identification (ISA-5)
  • Human-machine interfaces for process automation systems (ISA-100)
  • Intelligent device management (ISA-108)


ISA Certification

ISA does not provide certification to the organizations or service providers. Instead, it certifies technical personnel related to the automation field. There are two types of ISA certification: certificate programs and certification programs. The certificate program is a classroom-style training where the participants require regular attendance at the course. The exams conducted are based on the lesson taught in the classroom. The certification programs do not require attendance to course content. Instead, certification is based on the person’s technical experience demonstrating the ability, knowledge, and skill to perform the related job. 

Currently, there are two certification programs for automation personnel: Certified Automation Professional (CAPR) and Certified Control Systems Technician (CCSTR).

CAPR certifies professionals with extensive knowledge of control and automation. After passing the required testing procedure, the successful professionals are provided documented proof regarding their expertise and abilities. 


A photo showing a cable with an angled IEC connector (IEC 60320 C13) and an EU plug (CEE 7/7). Image used courtesy of Johannes Landin


Oppositely, CCSTR certifies technicians have expertise and knowledge in control and automation. They can calibrate, troubleshoot, repair, replace, and document physical process variables, such as level and flow, with full credibility and knowledge. In addition to certification programs, ISA offers two other programs: ISA84 Safety Instrumented Systems Certificate Program and the ISA/IEC 62443 Cybersecurity Certificate Program.


ISA84 Safety Instrumented Systems Certificate Program

The ISA84 Safety Instrumented Systems (SIS) certificate consists of a training program according to the ISA84 standard. The ISA84 includes three individual certificates—each is mandatory to pass for a candidate to acquire this certification. These include the ISA84 SIS Fundamentals Specialist, ISA84 SIL Selection Specialist, and ISA84 SIL Verification Specialist.

ISA84 SIS Fundamentals Specialist: This course program focuses on installed system performance requirements for safety integrity levels. It includes evaluating process industries for different specifications, designs, and justification requirements. Some topics included in this certificate program:

  • Different accidents occurred, lessons, and legislation                                                                                                           
  • Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment                                                                                                                                   
  • Layers of Protective Analysis                                                                                                                                                  
  • Reliability issues, including minimum hardware tolerance levels                                                                                            
  • Logic System Technologies                                                                                                                                                      
  • Field devices
  • Installation, commissioning
  • Factory acceptance test, validation, bypassing, and maintenance


ISA84 SIL Selection Specialist: This course includes hands-on examples of safety integrity level using different techniques. Some areas that this course covers includes:

  • Using different safety techniques such as risk matrix, and risk graph                                                                       
  • Establish minimum performance levels of safety devices                                                                                                
  • Preventing design non-conformance with the requirements 

ISA84 SIL Verification Specialist: This course is an advanced version aiming to provide participants more insight into different design considerations. It consists of hands-on examples of practical scenarios related to system analysis and modeling.

After going through training sessions, participants take an exam. Upon completing the training and passing the exam, participants are awarded the ISA84 SIS Expert certificate.


ISA/IEC 62443 Cybersecurity Certificate Program

The ISA/IEC Cybersecurity certificate program is especially for the IT and control system professionals that want to increase their cybersecurity knowledge with the ISA/IEC 62443 standard.

This course revolves around current cybersecurity trends and designs for industrial automation and control systems. It provides an overview of how industrial automation systems are attacked by cyber threats and creates an effective security program.


ISO and ISA provide certifications to their accrediting partners with the valuable knowledge and skill that helps them succeed in today’s challenging environment.


Cybersecurity in industrial automation is a relatively new topic that is getting more attention. Some companies can lack the proper infrastructure to counter cyberattacks, and standardization bodies like ISO and ISA are an important source of practical information. 

The accreditation to the standardization bodies such as ISO and ISA is not necessary. They do not enforce their standards, neither have compliance to follow these standards. However, using these standards makes the organization’s processes safe, authentic, and credible.