How can ISA help me? This is a question we hear from automation professionals, members, and volunteer leaders. As a section leader, it is a question that I have also asked in the hope of helping me better perform my volunteer role. There is no simple one-line answer, but let me provide a few common examples in the context of some of our strategic goals.
For most of us, ISA’s core value lies in its content (Strategic Goal #1). Providing high-quality technical content to members and customers is fundamental to ISA’s mission. This content needs to be available when we want it and how we want it. It is why most of join ISA and why we stay engaged.
To a great extent, we derive our content from our standards. Did you know that ISA’s has more than 150 automation standards and technical reports — developed by more than 4,000 industry subject matter experts throughout the world? ISA members can view most of our standards at no cost.
Another benefit related to standards is training. This is the “P” part of Standards & Practices (S&P). ISA’s expert-led training, best-practice forums, and certification and certificate programs optimize the real-world application of our standards and improve industry-wide safety, efficiency, and profitability. ISA training can be accessed online or in traditional classroom settings at one of the Society’s 10 training locations in North America and through our European office located in the Netherlands. With more than 115 courses offered through the rest of this year alone, you should discuss with your manager the benefits of enrolling in one of these courses or consider making the investment yourself.
Among automation companies and manufacturers, a primary concern is workforce development — accessing the next generation of young workers with the competencies and know-how to drive future growth and competitiveness. ISA members need to make our employers and managers more aware of how ISA can supplement their automation training programs. ISA can discuss options for needs assessment, customized training and ongoing knowledge verification and testing. It would a plus if you could help initiate or pave the way for these type of opportunities within your companies. This way, you can “help us help you” and your employer.
From a section leader perspective, ISA’s high-value technical content can enhance local programs in several important ways. One is through section-sponsored training. With 29 single-day course offerings, ISA can help promote and provide member-requested training for local section members. Courses require collaboration between the sections and ISA staff so sections need to appoint a coordinator. In addition to delivering great training, sections are rewarded through ISA’s revenue-sharing incentive program.
To enhance the value of section meetings, presentations and roundtable discussions based on ISA standards, training capabilities, and certification and certificate programs are great places to start.
How we obtain and share information may have changed from when many of us first joined ISA but sections remain convenient, accessible avenues for providing unique value through networking, training, and exchange of best practices. Our Geographic Assembly also has initiated a Speakers Bureau for section and division leaders. This resource is a work in process, but please share your speaker and topic references to your fellow leaders so they can consider opportunities for their meetings. This is a way for you to “help each other.”
From a division perspective, ISA currently supports 17 divisions and three Technical Interest Groups (TIGs). Seven divisions conduct annual symposiums, which furnish leading, market-specific content and outstanding networking opportunities. I was fortunate to attend this year’s Food & Pharmaceutical Industries Division (FPID) and Power Industries Division (POWID) meetings and both were world-class events, showcasing ISA at its very best. Their success was possible due to the many contributions of end users, division and local leaders, ISA staff, and our automation supplier sponsors. You and your manager should consider supporting the ISA technical symposium that best targets the needs and expectations of your customers and partners. Get involved in developing a conference program, workshop or activity; better yet, consider presenting a paper at one of these events.
Finding the information you need on any website is not always an intuitive process. But if you spend some time on the ISA website, you’re sure to find something of interest. If you are a volunteer leader, I would encourage you to explore the ISA Members and Leaders link under the Resources tab. You’ll especially want to check out the options under the Operating Documents link. There is a lot of great information about specific volunteer leader role descriptions and expectations.
ISA’s Data goal (Strategic Goal #2) is all about ISA becoming a more market- and data-driven association. This means that we are developing and delivering content that industry wants and values. For section leaders, we can provide some granularity into your local membership, such as identifying members’ specific division activities and memberships. Did you know that your ISA dues provides for two free memberships in our technical divisions — one within the Automation and Technology Department and one within the Industries & Sciences Department? Thanks to our division symposia, there is quite a bit of divisional content that can help with programming and attracting greater member and volunteer participation. We certainly need to explore ways to better leverage our division and section content and activities.
Our Coolest Delivery goal (Strategic Goal #3) focuses on our ability to deliver great content via multiple platforms in an engaging, easy-to-use, and interactive way. Some of these resources, such as a tool for self-assessment of automation skills, are still being developed. But many more are either available now or will be available shortly. We recently developed interactive gaming simulations that are used in several of our courses and a Loop Signal & PV calculation app that is in the final stages of testing. And let’s not forget our InTech Plus app available on Apple iOS and Android platforms. It’s interactive, intuitive, fresh, and fun. From the latest technology news and ‘how-to’ videos featuring ISA subject matter experts to Q&As, quizzes and calculators, this mobile app delivers added value to automation professionals on the go. We have only had about 3,000 downloads so far, which means that there are many of you that are missing out on this great new tool. Why the wait??
Another area to check out on the ISA website is the Videos link under the Technical Topics tab. These videos are grouped by ISA Leadership, Basic and Advanced Technical, Conference and Events, ISA Training and Certification, and How-to and Career videos. We are also is the process of updating our Leadership Development training so please be sure to check back and let me know what you think. We might not be “way cool” just yet, but we are diligently working on it.
So, what are we missing in terms of benefits, tools or collateral to help you get the full value out of your ISA membership or to be more successful or gain greater enjoyment out of your volunteer leadership role? Also, why did you join ISA and what keeps you coming back? Please contact me at President@isa.org
A version of this article also has been published in ISA Insights.