ISA continues its tradition of honoring leaders throughout the automation profession. The Automation Founders Circle features the personal stories of outstanding automation professionals who carry on the legacy of industry pioneers and ISA founders Albert F. Sperry, innovator, business leader, and first ISA President (1946) and Arnold O. Beckman, inventor, founder of Beckman Instruments, and ISA President (1952).
Contributing to excellence brings rewards
ISA’s awards program celebrates excellence in automation
Throughout its history, the International Society of Automation (ISA) has bestowed honors upon those who have made special contributions through the Society’s awards program. This year, ISA continues its tradition of honoring leaders throughout the automation profession.
As a volunteer-driven organization, ISA depends on its members and leaders to advance the mission of the Society around the world. Thousands of volunteers work on ISA’s world-class standards, training and certification programs, publications, and conferences and exhibitions. The Celebrating Excellence awards program also honors dedicated individual volunteer service and the exceptional efforts of sections and divisions to advance the mission of the Society. The Celebrating Excellence Member’s Choice awards allow members to nominate and vote to select ISA members who have demonstrated exceptional leadership.
Leading by listening
“Don’t find fault,” automobile magnate Henry Ford once said, “find a remedy.” Eric Byres, the winner of this year’s Excellence in Leadership Award, brings a similar approach to his engineering design and consulting, “Keep it simple. Keep it practical. I really believe it’s about listening to the customer and figuring out how to make his life better. Figure out where his pain is.” And then find a remedy.
It is a strategy that appears to work. After years as a controls engineer, in 2001 Byres moved to British Columbia Institute of Technology, where he founded the Critical Infrastructure Security Centre. Specializing in supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) security and spurred by the anxieties provoked by 11 September 2001, the Centre enjoyed rapid growth and developed a range of new security technologies. When the Institute decided in 2006 that British Columbia’s taxpayers should realize a return on the research they had funded, Byres’ team incorporated Byres Security, licensed the technology, and later that same year, allied with MTL Instruments to develop, manufacture, and distribute security products for both new and legacy SCADA and process control systems.
The Tofino Industrial Security Solution, an industrial firewall, was released for beta trials in October 2007; four months later it was declared fit for hard work. By the following April, the Tofino firewall was an integral part of both Honeywell and Yokogawa security. Not long after that, the firewall was demonstrated by both Boeing and the Trusted Computing Group. Belden, Hirschmann, and Invensys began using Byres’ technology as well, and in 2010 Frost & Sullivan named Byres Security the World Award Winner for Industrial Network Security Solutions.
From day one until now, Byres has stuck to a few straightforward principles. “I’m passionate about security,” he says, “and more passionate about making whatever it is practical and simple.” Always, he asks, “How are we going to make it easy for the guy on the plant floor?”
After visiting plants where the firewall was still in the shipping box because configuring it was too complicated, Byres’ team took a different, counterintuitive approach: a plug-and-play design with no configuration options. Plug it in—and you are done. He happily reports that none of the Tofino firewalls are sitting unused in the purchasers’ storerooms. Out on the plant floor that was the right thing to do, even if the end result was not just like everybody else’s box. That is fine with Byres. “If you want to be a leader,” he explains, “you’ve got to lead. The generals don’t ask the troops where to fight the war.”
Belden, Inc. acquired Byres Security in 2011, and Byres is now a vice president of the combined company.
ISA’s leadership award bespeaks someone whose “vision has fostered a paradigm shift that has advanced automation or whose leadership has created and/or promoted initiatives that have had a sustained impact on the profession, and the contributions and innovations have enhanced social value.”
Few engineers have been so widely engaged as Byres with the advancement of the automation industry. In the past 15 years he has been the lead or joint author of dozens of refereed papers, industrial white papers, and magazine features, including many published in ISA’s InTech. In 2005, his InTech article “Insidious Threat to Control Systems” won ISA’s Keith Otto award for the best article published that year.
Speaking of insidious threats, Byres is the go-to guy for understanding Stuxnet, the virus jointly developed by the U.S. and Israel to target the centrifuges indispensable to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Surreptitiously inserted into the Iranian systems in late 2008 or early 2009, most security experts believed right up until its discovery in 2010 that there was no danger of a virus seizing control of an industrial facility. Though highly specialized, the code soon became widely available and numerous “son of Stuxnet” attacks have been identified; Stuxnet represents not a one-off instance of espionage, but a new and abiding threat to industrial security.
Additionally, he is an active member of multiple standards committees. He chairs ISA’s Security Technologies Working Group, ISA’s Cyber Threat Gap Analysis Task Group, and is the Canadian representative for IEC TC65/WG13, a standards effort focusing on an international framework for the protection of process facilities from cyberattack.
Reshaping an industry
Medical researchers have learned that all cancers are unique, but that it is possible to interrupt the growth and spread of cancer in an individual by deactivating, at the molecular level, the particular genes that drive its growth in that individual—that cancers can be cured with medicines customized for the unique genetic makeup of the individual and his or her attacker. If the production of relatively small quantities of such highly individualized therapies should someday become affordable and widely available, it will be due in no small part to the work of Richard Braatz, Ph.D., this year’s winner of the Excellence in Technical Innovation Award, endowed by UOP.
Braatz graduated from Oregon State University with a B.S. in chemical engineering in 1988, followed by a Master’s degree and Ph.D. from Cal Tech. He then went to work as a research engineer with Chevron, followed by stints at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and DuPont. In 1994, he moved to academia, joining the faculty of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. In 2010, he was appointed the Edwin R. Gilliland Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He was an active publisher and lecturer, delivering more than 200 lectures throughout the world and publishing more than 200 professional papers as the lead or joint author. He is an active contributor to professional societies as well, serving as an officer of both IEEE and AIChe. He presently serves as editor-in-chief of IEEE’s Control Systems Magazine. Further, he has consulted to a regular who’s who of industry: Merck, Avery-Dennison, Dow Chemical, Proctor and Gamble, Abbott Laboratories, IBM, and DuPont, among others.
Lately, Braatz’s interests have turned to polymers, hydrocarbons capable of crystallizing into any of several different structures (polymorphs) according to minor variations in composition and ambient environment. The crystalline shape the compound assumes may, in turn, dramatically shape the rate of release of medicines, making control of the final crystalline structure of the essence. Braatz developed a technology that facilitates control of the crystalline structure that the polymorph finally assumes during production. Though his chemical engineering background is vital to the work, “I do that,” he says, “as a design and control engineer.”
“With bulk polymers,” he points out, “you can mix away your mistakes.” But with small quantities of precise, custom blends, the batch is all good or it is all bad. According to a report in the Journal of Crystal Growth, “The application of the ATR-FTIR-based technologies resulted in in-situ solution concentration estimates in dense crystal slurries that were more than one order of magnitude more accurate than reported in previous studies.” The technology he developed is now used by Merck, Schering Plough, Pfizer, Bristol Myers-Squibb, and Abbott Laboratories.
While at it, he introduced Joseph Juran’s “quality by design” into the pharmaceutical industry. As Aaron Cote, the scientific director and head of the Merck Crystallization Lab explains, “While the FDA and ICH were still writing documents on experimental design, mathematical modeling, and process design and their relationship to product quality, Richard was developing and applying such technologies at Merck.” Cote adds, “Richard has continued to impact the pharmaceutical industry by making major advances in quality by design, including the design and implementation of control systems for a continuous pharmaceutical manufacturing facility that was designed and operated at MIT in 2011–2012.”
Kevin Girard, a research fellow at Pfizer, adds, “Dr. Braatz’s contributions are adopted widely across the industry and have been a steady stream of innovation. The tools developed in collaboration with Dr. Braatz and his group are immediately applicable at Pfizer. They quickly provide a return on our investment, because they solve critical problems and build upon tools and skills we already have in our labs and plants. Richard’s impact to the pharmaceutical industry is among the highest in academia.”
“The main thing about innovation,” Braatz says, “is two things. First, find a compelling need. Second,” he laughs, “have no fear.” He echoes other industry leaders who have noted that many industrial initiatives end up only nibbling around the edges of difficulties, “You have to make sure you identify the real problem.”
Though celebrated for innovations that have helped to reshape the pharmaceutical industry, those are not the things Braatz himself is most proud of. “The best thing I’ve done,” he judges, “is the people that have come from my lab.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Felton is a freelance writer from Wake Forest, N.C.