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ISA President's Column: The Odyssey

The 2021 International Society of Automation (ISA) President Steve Mustard is 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 www.isa.org/join to learn more about membership.


“Why cover the same ground again? ... It goes against my grain to repeat a tale told once and told so clearly.”

― Homer, The Odyssey

 

This month marks the arrival of Argos, a new oil and gas platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The platform, weighing almost 70,000 tons, was loaded onto the Boskalis Boka Vanguard, a heavy transport vessel in South Korea, and took a 60-day, 15,000-mile (24,000 kilometers) trip to get to its final location in deep water off the coast of Louisiana. You can view a short publicity video of it being prepared to leave and some photos of the loading process, which includes submerging the Vanguard over 95 feet (29 meters)!

The name Argos comes from The Odyssey, an ancient Greek poem about the aftermath of the Trojan war and the journey home by its hero Odysseus. Odysseus is presumed dead, and on his return to Ithaca, in order to hide his identity, he is forced to ignore the welcome of his faithful old dog, Argos, who has waited over ten years for his beloved master to return. The dog, having seen his master one last time, dies.

The story of Odysseus has spawned many things, one of which is the noun odyssey, which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as “a long wandering or voyage usually marked by many changes of fortune.”

The Argos journey did not start 60 days ago. In fact, it began more than ten years ago. The original plans for the facility were re-evaluated in 2013 because they were too expensive. The revised plan, 60% cheaper, was approved in late 2016, and the project moved into execution immediately. After four years of detailed engineering and construction, Argos is approaching the start of production later this year. Even then, its journey will not be complete. Digital transformation is a key part of the project phase and the upcoming operations phase, changing many of the “accepted ways” of doing things to enable greater efficiency. At the same time, as the company completes a major investment in hydrocarbon recovery, it is also moving into new areas of energy, including wind, solar, and hydrogen.

Still with me? Still reading? Are you wondering what any of this has to do with ISA? Similar to Argos, ISA is on a journey. And like Odysseus, that journey is marked with changes of fortune. Even in my relatively short time with ISA, I have witnessed the renaming of ISA to better reflect the international and automation aspects of its remit, the end of the “Annual Expo,” and the change in membership numbers around the world. No one could foresee what the pandemic would bring in 2020, the year after ISA posted a financial surplus for the first time in a decade. As I mentioned in previous columns, staff and volunteers rose to the challenge and achieved some fantastic results.

ISA continues on its journey. We will all experience changes along the way – even some we may not like in the moment, like changes to websites and tools, disestablishment of dormant groups, or updates to our policies. I am confident that we will be able to adapt and continue to move ISA onwards to its vision of creating a better world through automation. That is not to say we change for the sake of change. Some things are unchangeable, like ISA’s commitment to enhancing member value, growing a more diverse and global community, creating opportunities for members to improve their leadership skills, and being the recognized leader in automation and control education.

Recently, I took part in two Connect Live sessions, one discussing cybersecurity in building automation and one discussing automation project management. Our Young Professionals are continuing to be involved in many initiatives, helping us better understand what this generation expects from ISA. Our leaders will convene virtually for our strategic leadership meeting, where we will collectively discuss and prioritize plans for the next few years. We continue to host bi-monthly Connect Live sessions with the presidents where you can come and speak to me directly. There are so many ways to engage; just ask me.

ISA is your organization. This is OUR journey. And as much as I have enjoyed being part of Argos’ journey, I am fulfilled by supporting ISA on its journey.

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


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