• By Bill Lydon
  • The Final Say

ISA is celebrating its 75th anniversary. It is a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. ISA has been an influential organization throughout my career—as it has for many other members of the organization.

Can ISA help you be more effective in the automation field? My opinion, based on experience, is a resounding yes!

This is how ISA had an impact on my career. I was first introduced to ISA as a young engineer at Johnson Controls in the 1970s by a vice president who was an active member of the organization. The first formal contact, on his recommendation, was attending an ISA three-day short course funded by my company on the application of microprocessors for control, which was a leading-edge topic at the time.

The information and knowledge I learned was valuable for my career and the company, leading to my selection as part of a five person “skunk works team” for two years. The team designed and spawned a new automation architecture and microprocessor-based control and automation solutions. Later this led to becoming product manager for the company’s computer and micro-processor-based automation system products.

Subsequently, as cofounder and president of a software company in the industry, I stayed involved in ISA presenting at the conferences, as a session reviewer, and in other activities.

I have many long-term friendships with automation professionals from around the world who I met when attending and participating in local chapter events and the annual international ISA expos. Learning, sharing information, and gaining knowledge and know-how from others was extremely valuable. The relationships with fellow automation professionals are a priceless source of learning, as are opportunities to cooperatively and creatively solve problems and develop new solutions.

One of the most memorable roundtable sessions I participated in that illustrates ISA leading-edge thinkers was moderated by the legendary Dick Morley, father of the PLC. It was at the 2007 ISA Expo in Houston, Texas, on the topic “Do Standards Kill Innovation?” Morley provoked productive discussion at a time when vendors were greatly resisting multivendor interoperable open standards. A counterpoint to the resistance was the question, what industry has ever embraced open systems, only to later change its mind, turn around, abandon the pursuit, and revert to former proprietary ways? As usual, Morley was ahead of the curve, and open systems are becoming a reality 13 years later. These kinds of forward-thinking forums are a hallmark of ISA, adding value to the industry.

Less obvious are all the discussions, debates, insights, and ideas that come from ISA members interacting in many ways to advance the industry at events, forums, and in continuing communications. This is the hallmark of a strong organization made up of engaged, passionate people dedicated to the profession.

In the world of Industry 4.0 and digitalization, ISA standards are standing the test of time. ISA-95 and ISA-88 are being used and referenced throughout the world, for example. ISA members identified cybersecurity as an issue incredibly early, before it became a hot topic in recent years, and formed the ISA99 committee, which since 2002 developed ANSI/ISA-62443.

Automation professionals are major contributors to a manufacturing and process company’s competitiveness and are vital for success. Automation improves productivity, quality, the environment, and profits. Automation’s positive effect on the environment may not seem obvious, but properly done, automation lowers energy requirements, optimizes raw material utilization, and lowers emissions.

The ISA ecosystem of automation professionals is a culture that helps members increase their knowledge, grow in their careers, and drive positive industry change. Whether you are a young person just entering the workforce, new to the industry, or an experienced veteran, ISA can help you navigate industrial automation challenges and new technology. ISA is the only organization dedicated to automation professionals.

If your career is in automation, it is well worth investing your time and contributing knowledge and know-how by participating in ISA. You will gain far more than you invest.

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About The Authors

Bill Lydon is an InTech contributing editor with more than 25 years of industry experience. He regularly provides news reports, observations, and insights here and on Automation.com