I have just returned from ISA Automation Week in Houston – a radical change in format for the traditional Fall Exhibition and Conference. Automation Week changed to more closely follow the model of several of the successful Spring symposia run by ISA Divisions with an emphasis on the conference with a smaller tabletop like exhibit. There were approximately 120 booths for the 1500+ event attendees. The exhibit was only open during times when technical presentations were not scheduled and other than Monday afternoon only open to registered conference attendees. Food and beverages were served in the Exhibit hall to encourage everyone to visit the various manufacturers.
The conference once again featured “tracks” as well as a second way to develop a customised program for yourself based on the type of work you do; engineer, manager, technician, etc. This worked well except in some cases I was disappointed in the ‘depth’ of the presentations so would like to see a ‘rating system’ to indicate just how technical the presentation will be from ‘basics’ (what is PID or difference between serial and Ethernet communications) to ‘advanced’ (suitable for publication in ISA Transactions with LOTS of math including matrix algebra, integration, and derivatives) so that I can have a feel for whether the talk is in my knowledge zone before entering the room.
Every registered conference attendee received a USB key with an application that allowed you to take notes alongside the presentation. You were encouraged to bring your computing device to do so and electricity was available in every room at the tables to be sure you did not run out of energy. This and the track concept are GREAT ideas and show that even though ISA may have a lot of momentum it is open to change.
The folks putting on Automation Week tried a LOT of new things last week and I am sure they are busy gathering feedback on what worked, what did not (either change or cancel – like the breakfast in the exhibit area or Thursday discussion groups to which almost no one came & the exhibit hall “police” who did not let participants in the room until the clock said now even though it was obvious by the numbers arriving at the same time the session had finished a few minutes early), and how to improve next year (see rating system above and perhaps creating once again the international and Press lounges) – in other words close the loop and like the control process move closer to the desired optimum.
Was Automation Week perfect? No. But for me it was a step in the right direction and shows ISA is making steps on how to evolve to meet the needs of the changing market place of exhibitions and conferences.
If you have thoughts on this event; including why or why not you attended, what was done well and what could be improved, and your thoughts on the future of horizontal events such as this please share them with us. As many of you know, I AM an active ISA volunteer so will make an effort to forward your suggestions to the appropriate individuals, especially if they include not only ‘gripes’ but also suggestions on how to make things better. I look forward to your thoughts on Automation Week and hopefully seeing you at Automation Week 2011 http://www.isaautomationweek.org/isaautomationweek/files/aw2011_brochure.pdf in Mobile, Alabama October 17 – 20.
As it is Canadian Thanksgiving today, I would like to wish all of you a HAPPY THANKSGIVING. I am certainly thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you this way and look forward to continuing to do so.