Q&A with Chris Monchinski

Chris Monchinski serves as Vice President of Manufacturing Intelligence at Automated Control Concepts, Inc., a provider of control and information technology products, services, and solutions to manufacturing and utility companies. In his role, Monchinski supports sales and project execution efforts involving manufacturing information technology, and leads project strategy, design, and execution efforts involving supply chain, quality, and MES projects.

Within ISA, he’s actively involved in standards and practices development, currently serving as Vice President-Elect of the ISA Standards and Practices Board and as Co-Chair of the ISA95 committee on enterprise-to-control system integration.

What initially attracted you to the field of automation (and specifically your selected field)...and when was it? Was there any specific thing that triggered your interest?

During my college years, I wanted to pursue electrical engineering and specifically, computer engineering. I had been programming “Basic” on PCs since high school. I got into electrical engineering just as the “component built TTL and CMOS” circuits were being phased out and replaced with ASICs and FPGA, programmed with VHDL, C, and Assembly.

I loved the transition from hardware to software, where hardware was more of a commodity and software allowed the freedom to create and develop solutions quickly. I really did not consider automation specifically as a career area until later in college when I became aware of early PLCs and their capabilities (again, mixing and matching the right hardware and then writing the software to control the process).

Automation represents such a challenge to apply the technical skills that you acquire throughout your career to solve real, tangible problems for society. There is always a “can-do” and “can-do-it-better” attitude among automation professionals. As my career has progressed, I have “graduated” to applying software to control system design, MES, manufacturing operations and now analytics.

Please tell us about your current career responsibilities (specific position, company) and background, and area of specialty in automation.

Currently I am the Vice President of Manufacturing Intelligence at Automated Control Concepts (ACC), Inc. an independent systems integration company specializing in industrial automation and manufacturing information technology.

I lead a team that delivers software solutions for manufacturing operations management and analytics information systems. We work with our customers to help them implement many of the major software packaged on the market today, integrating them to existing enterprise and plant floor systems as well as assisting them in the scoping and business transformation processes needed to successfully take advantage of information systems platforms in manufacturing.

It has become a complex landscape of toolsets, platforms, and architectures. My goal is to have ACC and my team seen as a trusted, independent, and knowledgeable partner to all our clients as they seek to implement new technologies and optimize their operations.

Could you tell us how you became involved in ISA, and particularly as Co-Chair of the ISA95 committee on enterprise-to-control system integration?

I first became an ISA student member in 1993. My first real, tangible professional experience with ISA occurred while being caught up in the whirlwind of the ISA-88 standard. This standard completely transformed automation for process industries, allowing for vendor software companies to create products that encapsulated the best practices outlined in the ISA-88 standard. It was this impact of the ISA-88 standard that made me realize I needed to participate in ISA, to get involved and be a voice that could help steer the automation field to better practices and more repeatable success.

I became directly involved in the ISA-95 standard early on as ISA-95 adopted and expanded many early concepts from ISA-88 (equipment hierarchy, as an example). It’s been a fantastic and exciting journey to be involved in ISA-95—seeing a standard formed according to the needs of the automation community and to witness the contributions and hard work of so many dedicated professionals. In the years since I started working on ISA-95, I have now become its co-chair. I love the role of leading this important group as we continue to develop ISA-95 to address the current automation landscape.

Could you provide some insights into your role as the Vice President-Elect of the ISA Standards and Practices Board and the board’s importance to both ISA and the automation community as a whole?

Over the past two years, I have served as the VP-Elect of Standards and Practices. The S&P group oversees the various volunteer committees and ensures that the proper procedures are followed for developing accredited standards and that schedules and commitments are met.

Collaboration between standards groups has become critical to expanding the value of the ISA standards portfolio. ISA S&P has been putting in place groups to help facilitate this, such as Technology Search Committee and the Automation and Operations Lifecycle Group. I see this as an important part of S&P that I wish to expand on.

These activities will help S&P streamline the standards currently in place, identify gaps and areas for new, expanded standards activity, and articulate clearly to the automation community at large the value of ISA standards in automation.

What ways would you say ISA has benefited you?

A key benefit of ISA is, of course, making professional contacts. There are so many intelligent, dedicated people who have made contributions to ISA automation standards. I like to say that I learn new things each time I participate in an ISA activity, even as a leader. Automation is a constantly changing career landscape with new tools and architectures continuing to emerge. By participating in ISA, I stay engaged and relevant in the automation profession.