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This blog covers numerous topics on industrial automation such as operations & management, continuous & batch processing, connectivity, manufacturing & machine control, and Industry 4.0.

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ISA President's Column: Make Way for 2021!

The 2021 International Society of Automation (ISA) President Steve Mustard will be featured monthly on the ISA Interchange blog with a column directed toward ISA members around the world. The column speaks to current membership priorities, challenges, news, and perspectives. We invite ISA Interchange readers to engage and dialogue with Steve, and if you are not currently a member of ISA, visit to learn more about membership.

"Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true."
Alfred, Lord Tennyson


It is a real honor to serve as the 2021 ISA president, following in the footsteps of our past leaders from Albert Sperry in 1946 to Eric Cosman last year. Each president has helped to move ISA forward, and I hope to do the same this year.

January Column CartoonImage: Twitter


I would like to take this opportunity to thank Eric Cosman. I’m sure that charting a course for ISA through a once-in-a-century pandemic is not how Eric envisaged leading the Society through its 75th anniversary, but I am very grateful for everything he did. I am thankful that he will be around in 2021 to support me with his wise counsel as past president, along with another trusted colleague Carlos Mandolesi, our president-elect secretary.

By my count, I am the fourth non-native North American to serve as president, and perhaps the second dual citizen (after Eric). I, together with a diverse executive board, look forward to working for the interests of automation professionals around the world.

The first address by each ISA president is usually a call to action, to take the opportunity given by the new year to start afresh, re-examine priorities, and move ahead with renewed energy. In 2021, this call has even more significance.

We have all spent the last year in semi-isolation. Now, with vaccines being distributed, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps by the middle of 2021, things will be returning to “normal.” I doubt, however, that we will return to how things were pre-pandemic. Businesses have learned to adapt to remote working—and, in many cases, have seen efficiency improvements as well as financial benefits. People who previously could not envision doing business remotely have seen that it can and does work, so why go back to the grind of sitting in traffic jams and airports if it is not necessary?

ISA spent 2020 adapting to these changes. When your business is based around in-person instruction and in-person events, necessity becomes the mother of invention. ISA staff and volunteers quickly repurposed material and plans so that online instruction and online events were available.

Despite the potential to return to in-person working in 2021, I expect the demand for online instruction and events will continue to be significant. Online instruction, especially in modular format, allows students to learn at their own pace; online events allow attendees to easily dip in and out as desired. In 2020, ISA even had its first virtual Council of Society Delegates vote on 34 recommended modifications to the bylaws. The fact that all but one of these recommendations passed was a significant milestone, but equally so was the fact that we proved we could do it virtually.

I hope you are all familiar with our vision and mission now. The vision is to create a better world through automation, and the mission is to advance technical competency by connecting the automation community to achieve operational excellence.

ISA’s strategic plan is now focused on four interrelated objectives: industry reach and awareness, member development and engagement, technical education and certification, and leadership and business skill development.

Industry reach and awareness is about establishing ISA credibility and relevance in the automation profession. We want ISA to be the home of automationthe place where individuals and businesses come for advice, support, and guidance.

ISA, at its heart, is a member society. The aim of the member development and engagement objective is to ensure that membership comes with a clear value. We need to encourage more professionals around the world to join and move the society forward for the benefit of everyone in the profession.

ISA provides industry-leading technical education and certification opportunities. The board recognizes that ISA training needs to continue to evolve to meet the changing demands of the workforce. This includes adapting for members who want to consume educational material in smaller chunks on mobile platforms, and for those who need to learn new skills to enable them to compete in the age of digital transformation.

The final objective is about leadership and business skill development. We want to help our members develop their leadership skills for use in the Society and their day jobs. And we want to encourage the next generation of automation professionals to carry the Society and the profession forward.

ISA is your organization. I believe the more engaged you are, the more value you will receive. The best place to get started is ISA Connect, your community to connect with industry peers, share resources, and participate in technical conversations. To get the most out of your ISA experience, join the conversation at

You can also join any number of our technical divisions, engage in your local section to network with peers near you, and/or volunteer to help ISA with global projects. Create your profile on ISA Connect and check out volunteer opportunities at You can contact me by emailing me at, or you can find me on Connect.

I look forward to working with you all to create a better world through automation.

Steve Mustard
January 2021


About the Author

Steve Mustard is an industrial automation consultant with extensive technical and management experience across multiple sectors. He is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE), ISA Certified Automation Professional® (CAP®), UK registered Chartered Engineer (CEng), European registered Engineer (Eur Ing), GIAC Global Industrial Cyber Security Professional (GICSP), and Certified Mission Critical Professional (CMCP).

Backed by 30 years of engineering experience, Mustard specializes in the development and management of real-time embedded equipment and automation systems and cybersecurity risk management related to those systems. He serves as president of National Automation, Inc.

Mustard writes and presents on a wide array of technical topics and is the author of ‘Mission Critical Operations Primer,” published by ISA. He has also contributed to other technical books, including the Water Environment Federation’s “Design of Water Resource Recovery Facilities, Manual of Practice No. 8, Sixth Edition.”

Mustard’s previous and current client list includes the UK Ministry of Defense; NATO; major utilities such as Anglian Water Services and Sydney Water Corporation; major oil and gas companies such as BP, BG Group, and Shell; Fortune 500 companies such as Quintiles Laboratories; and other leading organizations.

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