Don’t Fly Blindfolded

This recurring blog covers news about the ISA Automation Week: Technology and Solutions Event from the unique viewpoint of the event’s project manager, Carol Schafer.  With a technical background to draw on, a penchant for humor and the inside track on conference updates, Carol informs and entertains with messages that are always illuminating and often downright funny.

I travel on airplanes a lot in my many ventures, and I always try to catch a glimpse into the pilot’s cabin as I’m boarding. Don’t you?  I just want to see who is in there and whether they look like they know what they’re doing. I want to see that smiling, confident pilot with Automation Week 2013the fancy flight jacket. I want to feel like I’m putting my life into the hands of a competent professional who respects the ramifications his job performance will have on every soul on board. If I noticed the pilot was tying a blindfold on, seated facing away from the flight controls, or casually reading “Flying for Dummies,” I’d set a new land speed record down the jet way toward home – autopilot or not.

Seriously…I’m all about technology but I just don’t trust the Otto Pilot without a good old-fashioned human being on the job!

Yes, Virginia, I expect professionals upon whom I rely to take responsibility for their job performance. I expect airline pilots to care whether I get whiplash from the harsh landing when he slams the plane down on the runway, or whether we land soft as a whisper and I feel comforted. I desperately want them to understand how their flying skill, adherence to schedules, ability to command, and safety awareness all affect the profitability of the airline – and that means my fees don’t go up every other week due to inefficiencies, ineptitude, incompetence, ineffectiveness, or even apathy.  I want my pilot to understand the job in a broad “big picture” way, as well as in a deep, vertical way – and that translates to the four aspects of his job function:

  • People
  • Technology
  • Business
  • Safety

I guess I’m just picky, but that’s also what I want from the automation professional who works in pharmaceutical production, handles the water and waste/water utilities upon which I rely, and who makes the food I eat and provides the fuel I burn. Sure, the automation worker can go to school and get a degree, then learn on the job. He/she can even go to workshops and learn specific technologies, workarounds and fixes. But where can one go to learn the people, safety, technology and business aspects of his profession in order to be at the top of his game?  What are ALL the effects of his or her actions on the job? Where can he/she get a good jump-start on how to think differently in order to make decisions that will ultimately benefit the consumer (me and you!), and help make the manufacturer profitable, environmentally sound, sustainable  – all those good things we desire?

An education like that is not easily found all in one place. And it’s a massive task.  As we face skilled personnel shortages and build the next workforce generation, it’s critical to think in terms of a well-rounded knowledge base so that automation professionals like you (can I just call you “autopros”?) will be well-informed, have superior judgment and decision-making prowess in those very important daily job functions. That’s just good for everybody, and for our planet, too.

Who would guess that the place to get that all-around training would be Nashville, Tennessee?  I know, it sounds crazy and maybe it is. (It’s not like I’ve never been accused of having a few brain cells tilted off-axis.)  But it’s also true.

The ISA Automation Week: Technology and Solutions Event, coming to Nashville from 5-7 November 2013, has placed a stake in the ground and said:

It starts here. Here – in Nashville – we will gather the experts on all subjects germane to the autopro’s world, and start the conversation within the automation community. We’ll be looking at industry training and the knowledge base from the people, technology, safety, and business aspects. Take away any one of these – and major problems happen quickly.  That’s not what we want in the factory of the future. And the future of automation is here now – today.

There are some heavy hitters coming to teach in Nashville this November.  For autopros (are you sure you don’t mind if I call you autopros?), this is the one place to get an unbiased “big picture” education – and earn PDH’s too.  Led by respected industry leader, Program Chair Paul Galeski, CEO of Maverick Technologies, this exciting conference will cover critical issues in process automation through these six educational tracks:

  •     Asset Lifecycle Management and Optimization/Strategy
  •     Creating Business Value Through Automation
  •     The Connected Enterprise
  •     Industrial Automation and Control
  •     Industrial Network Security
  •     Wireless Applications

Plus…Music City isn’t a half-bad place to spend a few days. We’ll have music (of course!), fun (trust me!), fascinating technology demonstrations, hands-on workshops, ground-breaking education sessions, and a host of respected subject matter experts on hand to help anyone who asks them.* Where else can you find all of that in once place?  Only at your professional society’s annual event.  ISA is here for you. Join us in Nashville this November and set your hand to the future of automation – your future.

*If you are interested in providing a paper or session at the conference within one of these tracks, be sure to submit an abstract through the Call for Papers site. Or contact me if you have questions or need more information at cschafer@isa.org.

Welp – that’s it for now. Blog ya again soon. Remember: “autopro”. You heard it here first.

Carol Schafer

About the Author
Carol M. Schafer has more than 35 years of experience in the industrial automation and control field as a technical sales and marketing professional.  She spent 14 years in the field as principal of a manufacturer’s representative company, selling flow and humidity products, air and gas analyzers, CEM equipment, and sampling systems.  She also worked for several years as the East Coast sales manager for a leading weather instrument/systems manufacturer.  Carol joined ISA in 1996, and is currently Project Manager for the Society’s annual conference, ISA Automation Week.  She also serves as a senior consultant with the ISA Corporate Partnerships Program.  She obtained a bachelor of science in business administration from the California State University at Sacramento, and a master’s degree in business administration from San Jose State University.
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