It’s fitting, I believe, that this column is being posted in November—the month that ISA and the Automation Federation have designated as Automation Appreciation Month.
Automation Appreciation Month provides ISA with an opportunity to thank its members for their strong support, active involvement, and leadership contributions. In addition, the month celebrates the value and significance of the automation profession as a whole, and the passion, inventiveness, and dedication of all automation professionals throughout the world.
Value and benefits of membership
Our profession is truly a special one, and it’s important that we all appreciate that. It’s also important to recognize that while ISA is a member-driven association, its benefits and value go far beyond the sphere of its membership base.
After all, ISA was founded in 1945, and it was a different world. The way people shared information back then was different – you joined a professional society, networked with your peers, went to monthly meetings, bought products, and attended conferences. Technology and culture have changed over the last 70 years. There’s no doubt that the Internet has altered the world in ways far beyond the imagination of ISA’s original founders. Today, you can network online, without leaving your home or your family. Fewer and fewer people belong to technical organizations, and the same is true for ISA.
However, when you really study the organization and its focus areas, ISA tackles some of the most critical challenges facing industry and advanced manufacturing. That’s important – more important, in my opinion, than maintaining a certain number of members. ISA’s technical divisions and standards committees are doing incredible work to move the profession forward. A notable example: ISA is the developer and applications-focused thought leader behind the world’s only consensus-based series of industrial cybersecurity standards (ISA/IEC 62443). ISA is depended on worldwide to mitigate control systems cybersecurity vulnerabilities, reducing the severe threats posed by cyberattack on critical infrastructure.
Extensive industry influence and reach
Today, there are fewer than 20,000 full dues-paying ISA members. Yet ISA’s influence—through access to automation standards, training, certification and certificate programs, publishing, conferences and networking—spans to hundreds of thousands of automation professionals around the world.
I hope thousands of additional professionals find value in local networking, access to technical information, and valuable discounts on ISA products. Growing membership is a great thing, but let’s not forget that ISA is far more than a membership organization. ISA exists to serve the entire automation profession.
Paul Gruhn is a global functional safety consultant at AE Solutions and a highly acclaimed and awarded safety expert in the automation and control field. Paul is an ISA Fellow, a member of the ISA 84 standards committee (on safety instrumented systems), a developer and instructor of ISA courses on safety systems, and the primary author of the ISA textbook Safety Instrumented Systems: Design, Analysis, and Justification. He also has contributed to several automation industry book chapters and has written more than two dozen technical articles. He developed the first commercial safety system modeling software. Paul is a licensed professional engineer (PE) in Texas and a member of Control System Engineer (CSE) exam team. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.