Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Is it the end of the road for Automation Week?

November 27, 2012
By Jeremy Pollard

I now pronounce ISA Automation Week dead! Allow me to explain.

I submitted a paper on concepts and high-level implementation of Predictive Maintenance. The Malaysian engineer that followed validated my high-level approach and explanations. I felt good about the research and implementation of my presentation.
Now, here’s the deal. The attendees paid to attend the conference, so they were there because they wanted to be. This is good. There were just as many people in the room as there were in the previous 15 years of giving papers and presentations at an ISA conference.
In those years, attendees didn’t have to pay to attend the exhibits, but still had to pay for the conference. So the ‘show’ attracted a lot of tire kickers, if you will, but the show floor was packed with big booths, funky products and games to attract people into their booths.
This year’s exhibit took me less than five minutes to walk. Which of the ‘big’ guys were there? Hmmmm. No one! The ISA’s Automation Week has shrunk to a level that is almost below regional division table-top shows.
One of the reasons industry people go to these gatherings is to network and to see people once or twice a year that you wouldn’t otherwise see. Doesn’t happen anymore, since most of these people don’t attend. There was a press room, but it was empty. No buzz!
ISA is an organization like all others, and it has to grow and adapt with the times. That time is now.
Back in the ‘90s, Richard Simpson, then of ISA, created a new approach, called ISA Tech. The exhibits were open in the afternoon, and the technical sessions were in the morning. I can’t remember if the attendees had to pay as such, but to me it was a roaring success.
The function of technical sessions and organizations is to reach out to people, to educate and to promote the “goodness” of our industry. ISA Tech did that, which is why I feel ISA needs to stop being a process-focused, one-show organization and support local chapters and put together mobile tech programs for their audience. Like ISA Tech, as such, but charge for the privilege of attending.
If ISA Toronto wanted to put on a conference on SCADA for instance, ISA HQ should help them implement that. People don’t have to travel in this day and age, so do webcasts, etc.
I would really miss the opportunities to network and mingle with the people I have become friends with over the years, but the concept of a single show, at a single time, I think is past its prime.
What do you think?

This article originally appeared in the November/December issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.


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