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“Own” the control system

I wanted to drop you a note concerning your latest Final Say article [July/August 2019 InTech,] and how you could not be more spot-on with your comments. As a veteran of workforce development advocacy for a number of years in government, education, and industry, it still remains today that automation is either considered someone else's problem within the decision-making ranks of the company unit, is a job killer from a Capitol Hill political standpoint, or is in need of support and a strong voice from industry in the halls of academia beyond local efforts.

Your point, enhanced by an Einstein quote regarding ability to change, is that "automation should be treated as a core business function that is critical for success . . . " in the industrial world. This would go a long way to solving a significant part of the skills gap, now 7 million and counting, according to our friends at NACFAM [National Council for Advanced Manufacturing], regarding unfilled skilled positions available in industry.

There are some heroes out there: Don Bossi and the folks at FIRST [For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology] are showing young people how exciting a technical career can be, especially for those who didn't realize they had such an opportunity. Paul Galeski first really shined the light on how to address all the considerations, monetary and manpower costs, and future-think possibilities of replacing legacy DCS [distributed control systems] in partnership with ISA. Don Bartusiak is leading a global effort with new development and education in industrial data communications, and newly minted ISA Fellow Kelvin Erickson understands the needs of industry and is single-handedly designing and constructing a world-class and very successful industrial control system lab and coursework in industrial automation at a respected midwestern engineering university.

These are just a few of my heroes, but they all have in common a strong commitment and invested hard work in ISA as a technical society. There are many more, but ISA is structured as an individual member organization to benefit members who through association make their companies better. I'm certain there are many CTOs and/or CIOs in large process plants who choose not to "own" the control system, the one most important thing that could make their company more successful by being more competitive.

Your quote from Drucker, "If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old," not only applies to industry as you have stated regarding reactive investments. It maybe should apply to ISA or the profoundly weakened Automation Federation in the form of an industry alliance similar to the recent Cybersecurity Alliance, a strong voice united in a cause with a few heroes thrown in.

Stephen R. Huffman,
ISA Fellow

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