This year’s ISA Automation Week will be held in Orlando, Fla., on 24–27 September at the Orange County Convention Center. It will offer a world-class, unbiased technical program built around “operational and technical excellence.” ISA Insights recently sat down with Peter Martin, ISA Automation Week 2012 program chair, to find out more about this year’s program and Martin’s vision.
Insights: What is new in this year’s ISA Automation Week program?
Martin: The program committee has decided to slightly restructure the tracks being offered at Automation Week to add an emphasis on how automation technologies and strategies can positively impact operational excellence. To accomplish this, we have identified four Operational Excellence tracks: Control Performance, Asset Performance, Human Performance, and Safety & Environmental Performance; as well as two technical tracks: Wireless and Security. The two technical tracks are based on current industry interest and need while the four Operational Excellence tracks are intended to both cover traditional plant efficiency as well as business profitability perspectives associated with the drive toward operational excellence. We truly hope that this expanded program will provide very interesting and informative information for all technical and management level personnel looking to drive performance improvements through automation.
Insights: Why have you decided to add this aspect to the technical program? Why is this so important to the automation community and the overall success of companies? How does this complement the more traditional programming or content this conference has provided in the past?
Martin: When I joined the automation industry in the 1970s, it was the most solution-oriented industry I had ever seen. Supplier companies focused their technology and talents to truly solve client problems. Even salespeople were professional engineers and had tool kits in their cars to help install and tune systems and solutions. With the introduction of the digital computer, that all changed. The industry focused almost entirely on computer-based technologies and tended to lose the focus on client solutions. Automation companies started marketing the newest technology whether they knew what good the technology would provide or not. I believe this has to change and that ISA can be a catalyst for the required change. Automation technology and talent exists to drive operational excellence leading to greater efficiency, profitability, safety, and environmental integrity. We—as an industry—need to stop the abnormal focus on technology and reestablish ourselves as the solutions-oriented industry I recall from the 1970s. This is not only critical to the industrial automation user community, but is essential to the supplier community because, I believe, if suppliers do not move in this direction they will become irrelevant to industry. There is no better investment that most industrial production companies can make to drive bottom line improvements than correctly applied automation solutions. We need to prove this to industry and regain the ground that automation has given up in the past few decades.