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Meet ISA 2020 Fellow Richard Van Fleet

Richard Van Fleet, who works with Andritz Inc. in Cumming, Ga., first developed an interest in the pulp and paper industry when he was a student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. “They had a pioneer co-op program when I started in 1978,” Van Fleet explained. “All the students went out and worked, and I always chose the co-op that was farthest away. I ended up in industry every other term at a pulp and paper co-op, and I loved the process.” He first became a process engineer, then he became an automation engineer—a sequence he recommends: “First, understand the process, then you can automate it.”

Van Fleet joined ISA in 1985 when he was living in Upstate New York, and he has been part of several ISA sections. One of his first tasks was revitalizing the Mid-Hudson Valley Section of ISA, which had been lying dormant. When he moved to Vermont, he formed and chartered the Green Mountain Section. After that, he moved to Pensacola, Fla., and joined the Pensacola Section. When Honeywell recruited him, he moved to Phoenix and became the District 11 vice president.

Now, as an ISA fellow, Van Fleet is being honored for his exemplary work providing subject-matter expertise and technical support relating to sensor development and implementation of advanced process control and sustained process optimization of pulping and bleaching processes.

Van Fleet said he is proud to have worked in the automation industry long enough to watch the equipment evolve from pneumatic panel board to single loop controllers to proprietary distributed control systems to open systems cloud-based controls. “I’m blessed to be able to live through those 40 years or so,” Van Fleet said. “ I’ve had wonderful experiences and met lots of people. I’m just proud to be in this industry at this time. I’ve been able to learn a lot and pass it on.” Van Fleet has four patents to his name, all related to the pulp and paper industry.

As part of ISA, Van Fleet focuses most of his time on his local Georgia section and as a leader with the ISA Pulp and Paper Division. “The technical divisions are becoming more and more important because there aren’t geographical demands,” he said. “I work with people in Finland, Canada, and Brazil on a regular basis.”

Van Fleet said that being part of ISA has given him the opportunity to establish a strong network. “Through my career, I’ve traveled to 28 countries, and besides the food, meeting people has always been the number one benefit. ISA gave me that forum to meet a lot of people—some very famous—that I still call friends today.”

Van Fleet joined Andritz two years ago and has since acquired the opportunity to mentor more than 50 new engineers and assume the role of global product development manager. Midway through his career, at the dawn of distributed control systems, the industry started working on consolidating control systems and replacing people, which the pandemic has since accelerated. “My company that supplies both equipment and automation services to the pulp and paper industry is now in discussions about the autonomous mill, facilitating a different type of change in the skill sets required by a further reduction of manpower,” he said.

Van Fleet does not plan on retiring anytime soon: “I’m enjoying what I’m doing immensely. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next with edge and cloud computing, and I’m honored to lead these fresh minds into the next era.” 

Through his role as a mentor to young engineers, Van Fleet has shared plenty of advice. “While machine learning and artificial intelligence are very popular right now, I encourage my mentees to study the basics of the process and instrumentation,” Van Fleet said. “Think and understand the process and apply instrumentation and controls correctly. Before presenting some elaborate solution, it must pass the ‘Does it make sense?’ test.” ISA has many resources that they can also turn to.

He also encourages new engineers just entering the field to see every situation as a learning situation. “True to my Canadian roots, I also coached hockey, and I never called losing a game ‘a loss.’ It was a learning situation,” Van Fleet explained.

Van Fleet is active in ISA Connect, the Society’s new platform for member connection and collaboration. Contact him there, or through the PUPID Division.  —By Melissa Landon

ISA elevated four members to the esteemed member grade of Fellow, which is one of the highest honors ISA bestows. A senior member must have “outstanding and acknowledged engineering or scientific attainments [and] must receive peer evaluations leading to recommendation for election by the Society Admissions Committee,” and must receive a majority vote from the Society’s executive board to become an ISA fellow. In ISA’s 75-year history, 495 distinguished individuals have made the list. See them all at www.isa.org/members-corner/isa-honors-and-awards/fellow-member


2021 Society Leader Nominations Open

Do you know someone who would make a great leader for ISA? Nominations for the 2021 election are open through 1 March 2021.

The responsibilities of each group, and each role, are outlined in the Society’s Manual of Organization and Procedures. Desired attributes for elected leaders include, but are not limited to: 

  • a contagious passion for promoting the ISA brand and the automation profession
  • strong knowledge of ISA’s core competencies, products, and services
  • an interest in visioning the role ISA plays in the future of the automation community
  • the desire to understand the diversity of ISA’s constituencies and a commitment to act in the overall interests of the Society
  • an understanding of basic financial principles with the ability to exercise sound business judgments
  • an innovative mindset and ability to engage and empower members in driving change to meet strategic objectives.

Any ISA member may submit a nomination, and all nominations other than district vice president are reviewed by the Nominating Committee. The election is held in June.


New Dates for ISA Conference Events

The final 2021 schedule of ISA virtual conferences has been set, and some earlier announced dates have changed. Update your calendars accordingly and make plans now to attend from the comfort of your work or home office. Learn more at https://www.isa.org/virtualevents.


New CAPs and CCSTs

The following individuals have recently passed either ISA’s Certified Automation Professional (CAP) exam, or one of the three levels of Certified Control Systems Technician (CCST) exam. For more about either program, visit www.isa.org/training-and-certifications/isa-certification.

Certified Control System Technicians

Level 1

Thomas Cox, U.S.
Aaron Brown, U.S.
Aaron Clementz, U.S.
Jude Esumobi, Nigeria
Andrew Kibbe, U.S.
Travis Audet, U.S.
William Degraff, U.S.
Mark Manderscheid, U.S.
Adrian Sanchez, U.S.
Joshua Coble, U.S.
Bradlyn Anderson, U.S.
Vlado Stavreski, U.S.
Cameron Graber, U.S.
Juan Zamorano, U.S.
Jeffery Schults, U.S.
Kleber Farias Sanchez, U.S.
Charles Faulkner, U.S.
Mitchell Grosz, U.S.
Atan Khazaeipoul, U.S.
Cody Atkins, U.S.
Kyle Tennison, U.S.
David Evin, U.S.
Nagoro Setyadi, U.S.
Antonio Perez, U.S.
Gregory Mitchell, U.S.
Joshua Johnson, U.S.
Russell Angel, U.S.
Zachary Northup, U.S.
Matthew Schlarb, U.S.
Shawn Hatton, U.S.
Saeed Harbi, Saudi Arabi
Charles Zarbinski, U.S.
Anthony Ybarra, U.S.
John Snelders, U.S.

Level 2

Nicholas Kooiman, U.S.
Graden Gilmartin, U.S.
Jeffery Schults, U.S.
Ben Fabling, U.S.
Cody Kleinhesselink, U.S.

Level 3

Matthew Eller, U.S.
Tobias Leach, U.S.
Jeremy Zimmer, U.S.
Willie Williams, U.S.
Christian Djateu Pettang, U.S.
Daniel Robinson, U.S.
Pedro Herrera, U.S.

Certified Automation Professionals

Thanakorn Mahaarnichanon, U.S.
Vijay Gaikwad, U.S.
Joseph Huck, U.S.
Carl Ekrut, U.S.
Michael Glass, U.S.
Richard Ringvelski, U.S.
Christopher Zuercher, U.S.
Robert Wetter, U.S.
Aimee Kimball, U.S.
Wesley Hoffmann, Canada
Jason Reed, U.S.
Jason Tucker, U.S.
Dao Van Thuy, Vietnam
Nikhil Kapoor, India
Habib Faridoon, Pakistan

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