May/June 2011

Increasing knowledge improves efficiency, competitiveness-ISA Automation Week 2011 opportunity

By Bill Lydon, InTech, Chief Editor

Companies that improve all aspects of their operations become more efficient and eventually surpass their competitors. I believe a major contributor to achieving this goal is to continually gain new knowledge and implement new ideas. ISA Automation Week, 17-21 October, (www.isaautomationweek.org) provides automation people an opportunity to acquire new knowledge and ideas, understand the latest technology, and network with other automation professionals to stimulate thinking that helps improve employer's operations. The conference also allows participants to interact with subject matter experts in one place at one time to help companies reach their goals.

As an automation engineer and ISA member for many years, I have seen first-hand the value of an ISA conference where session discussions spark new ideas and solutions to automation problems. My experience has been that ideas come from multiple sources when attending this type of event. I learn new ideas directly from sessions and networking with others. The sharing of ideas with your peers also provides the opportunity to learn from their experience. You benefit from their mistakes, as well, while discussing automation challenges and ideas for applications. Some of my best ideas have been an "Aha!" moment when attending a session and an idea crystallizes in my mind that I capture by writing down. ISA Automation Week topics include advanced process control, analyzers, automation & control systems design, energy, human asset optimization, installation, optimization, maintenance, safety, security, and wireless. These are the defined topics, but with automation people from around the world attending, there will be hallway discussions on a wide range of other topics as people network.

A pure technical conference for automation professionals, ISA Automation Week is an open environment and fertile ground for new and out-of-the-box thinking. Thinking and discussion is free form and unrestricted since it is not centered on a single vendor's products and related partners features and capabilities.

Electronic communications is great, but networking with automation people from around the world provides a unique opportunity to learn and share ideas that can only be accomplished face to face. The exhibit area also provides an opportunity to talk with industry experts and see new products.

ISA Automation Week is being held at the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center in Mobile, Ala. I suggest viewing this conference as an investment that will help boost your productivity through technical sessions, workshops, and interactions with industry experts. If you register before 26 July, the investment is $695 for ISA members and $795 for non-members. Later registration is $745 for ISA members and $845 for non-members. Add in your hotel and airfare, and discuss that investment number with your management. If you learn something that improves your company's efficiency, how much savings does it take to make this a good investment?

The right ideas and solutions may become obvious when you are attending ISA Automation Week, but I suggest making a list of challenges and inefficient areas where you sense there could be improvement in your operations before attending the event. Keep an open mind, since a big obstacle to new ideas is making assumptions such as, "it's never been done that way before," and other negative responses.

The majority of the value created by automation today is the result of technology applications implemented by automation people. The ideas and shared knowledge you gain at ISA Automation Week is fuel for your thinking to make improvements.

Please share your thoughts at blydon@isa.org.