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Book Excerpt + Q&A: New Edition of Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge


This ISA author Q&A was edited by Joel Don, ISA’s community manager. ISA recently published the third edition of A Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge co-written and co-edited by Nicholas Sands, P.E., CAP and Ian Verhappen, P.Eng., CAP. In this Q&A feature, both editors highlight the focus, importance, and differentiating qualities of the book. To purchase a copy of this book, click here.


Q. Why was there need for an updated edition? Were there any new developments, new technologies, new trends, etc. that have taken place since the second edition that prompted it? If so, please explain?

A. Sands: The automation field is a technology field, and technology changes. As a result, A Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge must also change. We do not address new trends in this book, but rather the basics of the technologies and the related standards. Since the last edition, we have new standards on alarm management, HMI design, and cybersecurity, to name a few.

Q. What would you say is the core focus and overriding value of your book? Why should people purchase it?

A. Verhappen: The book is a practical overview of the key elements of, as the name implies "automation body of knowledge," that is consistent with the Automation Federation's Automation Competency Model. The book reflects the combined knowledge of a wide range of experts in the field of automation, with each individual sharing insights gained from their experience in their field of expertise. As one of the editors, I had the privilege of learning from these people during the book's development and obtaining a sneak peek, if you will.

Q. What is the prime audience who could benefit most by reading it?

A. Sands: The primary audience are automation practitioners early in their careers, those new to the field of automation, and those who are looking for a “refresher” guide.

Q. Is there a specific challenge or set of challenges the book trying to address or solve? What practical knowledge and applications can be gained by reading it?

A. Verhappen: The challenge we are trying to address is to make the book a general reference guide for practitioners as well as a study guide for the Certified Automation Professional® (CAP®) exam. The book collects the wisdom of many different experts between its covers. These experts share tips on how to successfully design, install, and maintain automation systems so readers don’t have to go through all the trials and error of trying to master these practices on their own.


Blog Author Q&A Free Bonus! To purchase a copy of this book, click here.


Q. What makes this book different than other books on the subject? What differentiates it?

A. Verhappen: We have strived to keep the individual chapters relevant and to the point so that the concepts are presented in plain language while also describing the core concepts in as few pages as practical—hopefully with minimal overlap between topics. In addition, the book can be read from front-to-back or simply as standalone chapters based on the problem or challenge you are working on at present. As with many ISA publications and events, the book is about the practical application of the arts and sciences associated with automation. Theory is kept to a minimum, other than in providing the basic underlying concepts. Overall, the book is about how to make things work.

Q. Is there any particular subject matter or material covered in the book that you would particularly like to highlight, emphasize or promote in the press release or author Q&A?

A. Verhappen: A Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge represents a compendium of knowledge based on the Automation Competency Model that can greatly assist those in the first decade of their automation career understand the breadth and scope of this profession.

Q. Do you have any other comments to make about the book that can help highlight its value, benefits, and advantages?

A. Sands: For years I have given the previous edition to new automation engineers. Many times they have reported that it helped them when they needed a quick reference. It really is a practical reference.


About the Author
Nicholas P. Sands, P.E., CAP, serves as senior manufacturing technology fellow at DuPont, where he applies his expertise in automation and process control for the DuPont Safety and Construction business (Kevlar, Nomex, and Tyvek). During his career at DuPont, Sands has worked on or led the development of several corporate standards and best practices in the areas of automation competency, safety instrumented systems, alarm management, and process safety. Nick is: an ISA Fellow; co-chair of the ISA18 committee on alarm management; a director of the ISA101 committee on human machine interface; a director of the ISA84 committee on safety instrumented systems; and secretary of the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) committee that published the alarm management standard IEC62682. He is a former ISA Vice President of Standards and Practices and former ISA Vice President of Professional Development, and was a significant contributor to the development of ISA’s Certified Automation Professional program. Nick is the co-author of the ISA book A Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge, and has written more than 40 articles and papers on alarm management, safety instrumented systems, and professional development. Nick is a licensed engineer in the state of Delaware. He earned a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering at Virginia Tech.


Connect with Nick



About the Author
Ian Verhappen, P.Eng., CAP, is a senior project manager at CIMA+ where he specializes in industrial communications networks, including Foundation Fieldbus technology; control system migrations/upgrades; process analyzers; sample systems; and oil sands automation. Ian, an ISA Fellow, has been involved in digital communications since 1994. He helped to install the first multi-vendor Foundation Fieldbus project in 1996. Since then, he has served as both a project engineer/designer and an external review consultant for a number of companies in pulp and paper, mining, food processing, water and wastewater, oil sands processing, petrochemical and refining industries. Ian is an active ISA volunteer leader, serving as Vice-President of ISA Standards and Practices and a former ISA District 10 Vice President. As a leader in automation practices, he has worked closely with the Standards Council of Canada and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). He currently serves as Canadian Chair of IEC TC65, SC65B and SC65E. He is co-author of several ISA books, including A Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge and Foundation Fieldbus. An inductee into the Process Automation Hall of Fame, Ian earned a bachelor of science degree in environmental science and a bachelor of chemical engineering degree, both from the University of Alberta.


Connect with Ian


Joel Don
Joel Don
Joel Don is an independent content marketing, social media and public relations consultant. Prior to his work in marketing and PR, Joel served as an editor for regional newspapers and national magazines throughout the U.S. He earned a master's degree from the Medill School at Northwestern University with a focus on science, engineering and biomedical marketing communications, and a bachelor of science degree from UC San Diego.

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