• Meet our Members
    Q&A with Andre Michel

    Andre MichelAs President of Efficient Plant, Inc., a consulting company specializing in automation project management, Andre Michel has assisted many large international pharmaceutical companies (such as Merck, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and Amgen) meet their process automation management goals.  He possesses more than 30 years of experience in automation project delivery and automation system application, including design, installation, and commissioning. As a long-time ISA member and leader, he is active within ISA’s Food and Pharmaceutical Industries Division (FPID), and has held key roles at the section and district level and through his involvement with ISA standards and publications.

    Please briefly introduce yourself and your educational background (degree/s received and when) and share with us how you became interested in a career in automation?

    Well, since early 2010 I have served as President at Efficient Plant, Inc., in Montreal, Canada. I graduated in 1983 with a degree in electrical engineering.  After my studies, I worked in Canada, mostly in the area of mines and metal and pulp and paper automation until 1992. During those years, I studied to gain a master’s degree in project management as I realized that if I wanted to control the projects I was working on I needed to lead them as a project manager.

    Beginning in 1992, I began working in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology field in England for three years. This was the beginning of an international career that brought me to: Boston (for three years), Brazil (for two years, and where I met my wife), Pennsylvania (at Merck for one year ), Michigan (at Pfizer (for two years and where my daughter was born), Indiana (at Eli Lilly for three years), Puerto Rico (at Eli Lilly for two years), California (at Amgen for two years), and Ireland (at Eli Lilly for three years). I am now back in Canada (Montreal), where I work on a project for China.

    During all those years, I managed large automation projects. Automation has always been my passion of mine. Sometimes I miss the technical part, but I discover that I was better at managing the projects than executing them. Because I am automation engineer at heart, I try to handle some of the technical side myself and sometimes even automate some aspects of project management.

    How are you currently involved with ISA?

    Currently, I serve: as a voting member of the Procedure Automation for Continuous Process Operations Committee, as Director of the Publications Department, and as Director-Elect of ISA’s Food and Pharmaceutical Industries Division.

    Tell us about your interests and goals, both in terms of your career and your involvement in ISA.

    Very early in my career I realized that managing automation projects was very different than managing normal engineering projects. There are many questions to answer: Which discipline must interact with other disciplines (electrical, mechanical, process, IT, commissioning)? Which discipline is needed to begin a project with a version of equipment and finish or revise it later?

    As the years have gone by, I have developed the project management skills and insights that have enabled me to answer those types of questions. I now lead a consultancy company, Efficient Plant, specializing in automation project management. It is located in Montreal, Canada.

    In terms of ISA, I initially joined in the 1980s, but when I began to travel more internationally, my membership lapsed. I rediscovered ISA in 2000. Since I rejoined at that point, I have volunteered at several levels of the organization.  My roles included:  helping organize ISA Expo and ISA Automation Week; being active on a division level with the Food and Pharmaceutical Industries Division (FPID); contributing at the section and district level ( as an Alternate Delegate,  President-elect, Secretary, Special Assignment); and working with publications (I am a Director for PUBS and Chair of the InTech Plus committee) and standards (I am a S-106 voting member).

    ISA’s FPID has always had a special meaning for me as this is the industry where I mainly work in. Since 2009, I have been the Newsletter Editor, Publications Chair, Program Chair, and, this year, the Director-Elect. My favorite event is the ISA Food & Pharmaceutical Industries Division Symposium that we started two years ago. This year’s event in Philadelphia was a big success, and we had a lot of fun, including visiting the Phillies’ baseball stadium with our friends from ISPE (International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering).

    How would you say ISA has benefited you?

    In pretty much every area—standards, publications, networking and more—ISA has kept its promises from the moment I joined.

    From a professional perspective, I use ISA standards regularly. In pharma, ISA S88 and ISA S95 are at the core of everything we do. I also often go back to older standards, such as P&ID symbol and instrumentation specification. Several other standards, particularly those relating to alarm management and cybersecurity, should be on every automation engineer’s desk.

    Every month, I can't wait to receive InTech. It’s the best automation magazine you can read. It provides me with the information I need for my work and interesting perspectives from my peers. ISA also has encouraged me to write my own papers, which are available on ISA site, and some have been published in InTech. As the Chair of the InTech Plus (ISA’s mobile app) committee, I have enjoyed being a part of this new development. Obviously, this valuable app is loaded on my IPad, and I take any opportunities I can find to show it off.

    However, I believe I have benefited most as an ISA member through networking.  Participating in and attending ISA conferences and volunteering in ISA have allowed me to make friends in automation around the planet. Whether you’re a VP at a large automation company, an automation manager, or a technician working on an oil platform, we all have something to share in common as ISA members.  The 2015 FPID symposium held earlier this year allowed me to spend two days with more than 100 automation engineers all working in the pharmaceutical industry. As a consultant, this is the kind of connection I need, and you will not get that from some social media (LinkedIn or Facebook) site.

    What advice would you give to young professionals entering the automation profession?

    My advice to young professional is that I understand that the world in 2015 is all about immediate information, social media, and working remotely. Everything is so instantaneous, it’s easy to lose patience. However, if you want your work to become a passion, you need the personal contact of your peers. This is what ISA provides.

    Volunteering for ISA or any other organization is important to your professional development as it allows you to see what others are doing. It also provides you with a sense of participation that you are doing something to improve our society.

    For my older friends, my advice is to be sure not to let your membership lapse. I understand that more and more companies are not refunding this sort of investment. However, for the price of a meal at a nice restaurant, you stay part of something truly special and important.