Building on ISA’s success

By Steven W. Pflantz, PE, ISA 2017 President

ISA is an organization with a long and distinguished history of providing value to members and the automation community at large. ISA has much to offer, and the challenge is how to improve and grow.

Many ask, "Why the need to grow?" The fact is, to stay relevant and survive, growth is an absolute must. ISA is in a strong leadership position when it comes to standards, training, and intellectual property for the process industries. Many other industry sectors are looking for what we have.

The adage, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way" is very relevant in our case, and the only option is to lead. Following is a business disaster, not to mention being totally ineffective with our core competencies. For instance, once a standard is established and accepted, think how hard it is to introduce a successful competing standard. The same applies for most, if not all, of our intellectual property. As for "get out of the way," that means "go by the wayside."

To be an organization that is recognized and respected for offering great intellectual property, we need to look for growth opportunities in our area of expertise and in new areas where our expertise could offer great value. We need to push beyond our comfort zone and think outside of normal channels. I believe our biggest growth opportunity is better leveraging our core strengths and capabilities in new industry sectors, taking advantage of new business opportunities to deliver technical expertise, knowledge, and content to solve problems across a diverse range of industries.

For example, ISA has accumulated a vast repository of technical know-how through standards committees and training that are applicable to a much broader spectrum of industries. In some areas-such as industrial cybersecurity-we are just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential. We need to work harder to foster recognition in the marketplace that ISA offers real solutions to mitigate cybersecurity risks. Conversations about cybersecurity can be a door opener to educate industry about other important ISA offerings and capabilities.

Advocacy is another significant task to stimulate a new generation of graduates to enter STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. These will be the next wave of ISA members who will be the future leaders with new ideas and an enthusiastic outlook. Think of it as a long-term membership drive, for both ISA and the automation profession.

Most of us will attest that we fell into an automation career by accident or had a close personal connection to someone in the field. In my opinion, it is one of the best kept career track secrets. We need to get the word out and step up as stewards of the profession, promoting the profession and the important work we do, including producing a lot of valuable intellectual property. We certainly deserve to do a little bragging about it.

Investing in advocacy benefits ISA and opens minds to what is possible in life, opening doors to exciting, rewarding, and well-paying careers. Knowing that you played a role in prompting a young person to pursue a STEM career is very powerful.

I have touched on two important tag lines: ISA's "Setting the Standard for Automation" and the Automation Federation's "Voice of Automation." If you think about it, those two ideas set a high goal of what we stand for and strive to be. It is about doing great things to make the world a better place, and to keep it "under control." No doubt we are up to the task with knowledge, energy, and passion.

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About the Author

Steven W. PflantzSteven Pflantz is an associate in the St. Louis, Mo., office of CRB Consulting Engineers, Inc., a global consulting, design, and construction services firm. He serves as a technical leader on many of CRB’s electrical and automation design projects, applying his extensive electrical engineering experience—particularly in the areas of instrumentation and controls. A longtime ISA member and leader, Pflantz brings to his role as Society president a deep understanding of the automation profession, the needs and expectations of ISA members, and the value and significance of automation careers.

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