This post is authored by Brian Curtis, president of ISA 2018.

The ISA Annual Leaders Meeting (ALM) gets underway this month in Montreal, Quebec Canada, bringing ISA leaders together to assess the state of the Society, consider strategies and actions to improve operational results, conduct training sessions for new leaders, plan for leadership succession, celebrate achievements, and promote fellowship.

For the seasoned member and leader, it is a great place to reconnect with peers. A lot of ISA business gets conducted over the course of the four days. Think of it as an opportunity to review the current year and get a glimpse of what is to come next year.

One of the key objectives is to give new members and leaders a chance to see how the Society works. There are a number of Society-level meetings that allow those to learn what it takes to run ISA, and how members can contribute to ISA operations. All these meetings are open, allowing attendees to observe leadership and staff in action and gain first-hand insights into the inner workings of the Society. It’s also a great opportunity to speak with others and learn how you can enhance your role and participation.

Leadership volunteers for ISA are in short supply, and if one is willing, there are many ways to contribute. The key is to remember that participation is voluntary, and you can take part at any level and degree you want. If you want to limit your involvement, there are committees you can join that involve a fixed commitment. If you seek more extensive service, there are elected leadership positions that you can fill. Do take advantage of the opportunity to speak with any of the leaders you see, as they are all more than willing to share what they do.

For those who are seasoned, you know what is going on for the most part. The one thing I want to stress is for you to take this time to work with your fellow leaders and think strategically about what it is we need to do. There is a great need to train new leaders on their roles, but think more about what can be done remotely versus face to face. Take the time we have together to approach issues from a “global” perspective, to think outside the box, and to brainstorm about what it is we need to do better or do differently.

The solutions to our challenges lie more in the strategies we implement and not so much in the details of how we operate. We need ideas that will help us find new members and new customers. Those two groups of people are fundamental to our long-term health and future.

Members are the lifeblood of ISA. They are the ones that lead us, as well as the ones that create and contribute the intellectual property we offer to our members, and to others in the automation profession. These are just a few things to keep in mind as we all gather at the ALM and assume the leadership roles we have opted to undertake. There are many challenges and opportunities, and the rewards are equally as plentiful. We can make a difference in the world and, for most of us, I think knowing that is more than enough to make it all worthwhile.

As a global organization, ISA serves members in all corners of the world. From the largest automation and control conferences and expos in North America, India, and Mexico to unique user-group events in the Europe and the Middle East, ISA’s global events provide members and automation professionals with industry-specific topics relevant to their geographic region.

ISA has made good progress over the past few years in terms of increasing its global participation but, like many professional associations, we are still heavily weighted towards North America. There is a large, growing consumer market outside of North America, and ISA needs to be the first choice and source for all automation professionals throughout the world.

“Think Globally, Execute Locally” is a great slogan, but we need to be sensitive to some potential challenges since, as we all know, the “devil is in the details.” The top challenges that come to mind revolve around legal concerns and cultural understanding.

In some countries, associations are more regulated. This might require that we partner with local organizations that better understand all of the legal and financial requirements that may come into play. In addition, transparency must always be the basis for all of our activities and discussions. We need to ensure that individuals operating sections or events do not personally benefit from any ISA activity.

ISA standards help automation professionals streamline processes and improve industry safety, efficiency, and profitability. They serve as best-practice guidelines that direct proper system design, implementation, operation, and maintenance, and promote plant and operational reliability, safety, and security.

In all, ISA has developed more than 160 automation standards, recommended practices and technical reports. They streamline processes and improve efficiency and profitability across virtually all types of industry and manufacturing.

More than 4,000 industry experts representing over 2,000 organizations from beyond 40 countries are involved in establishing ISA standards through their participation in more than 130 ISA committees, subcommittees, working groups, and task forces.

ISA’s industrial cybersecurity standards are attracting great media attention, and are notable examples of the Society’s leadership and relevance in standards development. The risks of cyberattack are mounting and represent serious threats to governments, industries, economic welfare, infrastructure, and public safety worldwide.

In the area of industrial cybersecurity, we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential before us. While there is growing awareness among industry leaders of the risks of cyberattack, we need to work harder to broaden awareness that ISA offers real solutions to mitigate these risks. It’s also important to note that conversations about cybersecurity can serve as the door opener to educate those about other important ISA offerings and capabilities.

On the event front, ISA@Montreal 2018 (15-17 October 2018) is a new, multi-dimensional automation track experience sponsored jointly by the ISA Food and Pharmaceuticals, Automatic Controls and Robotics, Construction and Design, and Process Measurement and Control divisions. ISA PCS 2018 – Process Industry Event (30 October-1 November) will provide expanded, more comprehensive technical content to meet the needs of a broader range of professionals in the energy processing and process manufacturing industries.

These unique events provide opportunities for members and leaders to interact with their peers in controlled settings where they can learn about the latest trends in their industries.

Over the years, I have attended many different ISA symposiums and have always come away learning something new and valuable. Through the critical perspectives of expert speakers and insightful presentations, you’re sure to come away with the up-to-date information (on innovations in instrumentation, measurement, controls, and automation technologies) you need to stay competitive in the marketplace today regardless of the symposium or technical conference you choose to attend.

All of us need to work together to keep the Society focused on achieving its critical objectives. If we work as a team and stay actively engaged, we’re sure to keep the positive energy going. I am looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible at the upcoming events in Montreal.

About the Author
Brian Curtis, I. Eng., LCGI, is the Operations Manager for Veolia Energy Ireland, providing services to Novartis Ringaskiddy Ltd. in Cork, Ireland. He has more than 35 years of experience in petrochemical, biotech, and bulk pharmaceutical industries, specializing in design, construction management, and commissioning of electrical, instrumentation, and automation control systems. He has managed complex engineering projects in Ireland, England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany. A long-time ISA member, Curtis has served on the ISA Executive Board since 2013, the Geographic Assembly Board (2012 – 2015), and the Finance Committee (2013 – 2017.) He was Ireland Section President and Vice President of District 12, which includes Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Curtis has also been active on several Society task forces, including Cybersecurity, Governance, and Globalization-related committees. He received the ISA Distinguished Society Service Award in 2010. He is the Former President of Cobh & Harbor Chamber of Commerce (2013-2015) and Former Chairman of the Ireland Southern Region Chambers (2015-2016) and is an active member of the Ireland National Standards Body, ETCI.

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A version of this article also has been published at ISA Insights.

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