This post is authored by Paul Gruhn, president of ISA 2019.

In their heyday, ISA conferences drew 30,000 attendees. Many changes have occurred since then, resulting in smaller conference sizes. In a concerted effort to reach a broader audience, ISA is actively exploring new partnerships with other organizations and society organizers. Conferences are an essential way that we serve our members and our industry.

These events offer valuable facetime with subject matter experts and provide us with the opportunity to live out our mission statement and further “advance technical competence by connecting the automation community to achieve operational excellence.”

This past June, we held a joint meeting with the Permian Basin Section of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) in Midland, Texas. Attendance was free but limited to ISA and SPE members. While attendance was originally capped at 50, over 60 participated and almost half of the attendees were ISA members.

The event featured brief remarks about the value of SPE and ISA membership from respective section leaders. There was also a series of informal presentations on automation and cybersecurity on oil and gas production facilities. The event marked an important first step for our two organizations to work together in the Midland market. Based on our success, ISA and the SPE Permian Basin Section plan to co-host a joint technical symposium next year.

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There are exciting conference presentations scheduled through the remainder of the year. The Society of Underwater Technology (SUT) has agreed to program a session on remotely operated vehicles and automation in deepwater exploration and production at our upcoming Process Industry Conference (PIC) in Houston this November. Eric Cosman (the 2020 ISA President) will deliver the keynote address at their Process Technologies Conference in Sugar Land, Texas this October. In addition to sharing content, we are also working on the cross-promotion of our society and its events.

In October, Steve Mustard (the 2021 ISA President) will present at the Louisiana Oil and Gas Conference and Expo (LAGCOE) in New Orleans, Louisiana on the modernization and transformation of the oil and gas industry. We are also very excited to partner with Hanover Fairs for their Digital Industry USA event in Louisville, Kentucky in September and with Texas A&M University on their Instrumentation and Automation Symposium for the Process Industries in College Station, Texas in January.

ISA has been working with DMS Global (a conference organizer) for conferences outside the United States. Events have been held in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore. Attendance at these events has often been around 300 people.

Automation technology is incredibly transformative with applications across a wide range of industries. We are on the cusp of a new era with exciting growth potential. The diversity of our event partners is only one facet of this ever-expanding role. Opportunities abound in training, certification, standards, and editorial. Partnering with other organizations opens the door to cooperation, connection, and further collaboration. Plus, it sets the stage for future expansion.

Stay tuned—exciting times are ahead!

About the Author
Paul Gruhn is a global functional safety consultant at AE Solutions and a highly respected and awarded safety expert in the industrial automation and control field. Paul is an ISA Fellow, a member of the ISA84 standards committee (on safety instrumented systems), a developer and instructor of ISA courses on safety systems, and the primary author of the ISA book 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, a certified functional safety expert (CFSE), a member of the control system engineer PE exam team, and an ISA84 expert. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Paul is the 2018 ISA president-elect/secretary.

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