Ecosystem is a hot buzzword in business circles, and ISA is an ecosystem that automation and control people should exploit to their advantage to advance their careers and the profession. Exploit here is used in a positive way meaning to put to good use, make the most of, capitalize on, and benefit. In nature, an ecosystem is a community of living organisms interacting as a system in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment (things like air, water, and mineral soil).
ISA is an ecosystem of people focused on common goals and visions with a wide range of automation and control backgrounds, experience, expertise, and know-how. ISA provides a broad ecosystem and platform where members can gain information and skills to improve operations, quality, and productivity, which is critical for manufacturers to compete.
The ISA ecosystem of automation profession members is a culture that helps members increase their knowledge, grow in their careers, and drive positive industry change. Leveraging what they learn, members are in a position to contribute entirely new value to their employers’ operations, making them more successful. The ISA ecosystem resources include the ISA website, InTech magazine, ISA Transactions technical journal Automation.com, books, standards, technical papers, software, webinars, ISA Interchange, training, and Division symposia. The most important part of the ISA ecosystem is ISA members who have a wealth of knowledge and experience.
ISA Division symposia are a great example of bringing people together around subject-matter topics that create focused ecosystems. ISA conferences and symposia include ISA Analysis Division Symposium (AD), Foundations of Alarm Management, ISA LDAR Fugitive Emissions Symposium, International Instrumentation Symposium (IIS), ISA POWID-EPRI Symposium, and ISA Water/Wastewater and Automatic Controls Symposium.
ISA events and conferences have great content value, but the interactions among people who share the same interests, challenges, and problems also provide a wealth of knowledge. I believe there is great value at these events where people interact formally and informally in conversations, creating lasting connections and, in many cases, long-term friendships. In Judith E. Glaser’s book, Conversational Intelligence, she talks about how conversations actually rewire our DNA and brain chemistry for mutual success. Over the years, these personal connections from events become your own specialized ecosystem of people with common interests and a wealth of knowledge. In my experience, asking people in my ecosystem for ideas and thoughts proved invaluable for solving automation control problems and improving operations. Today, it is much easier to continually stay in touch and share with people you have met using email and the ISA LinkedIn Group with more than 56,000 members.
The automation industry is faced with rapid change and challenges, and the diversity of ISA members throughout industry is a great resource of experience, ideas, and know-how to deal with rapid changes in the automation industry.
Whether you are a young person just entering the workforce, new to the industry, or an experienced veteran, the ISA ecosystem can help you navigate industrial automation challenges and new technology.
The broader ecosystem outside of your organization is important for protecting against the dangers of people in a company becoming inwardly focused and not changing with the times. Companies that are completely inwardly focused run the risk of missing new opportunities for improvements and being blind to changes in the external reality.
About the Author
Bill Lydon is an automation industry expert, author, journalist and formerly served as chief editor of InTech magazine. Lydon has been active in manufacturing automation for more than 25 years. He started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers and process control technology. In addition to experience at various large companies, he co-founded and was president of a venture-capital-funded industrial automation software company. Lydon believes the success factors in manufacturing are changing, making it imperative to apply automation as a strategic tool to compete.
A version of this article also was published at InTech magazine.