A profession in transition: Steve Huffman and the angst of the word "automation"

The unexpected rebuff of the ISA Executive Board by the Council of Society Delegates perhaps should not have been unexpected at all. The fact is, the entire profession is in transition. Those of us who grew up on the field instrumentation and control systems side of the process industries are still not entirely used to the breadth and depth of the field of automation, combining as it does all the facets of instrumentation, control, test and measurement, analysis, and computer aided manufacturing-- as well as manufacturing execution systems and machine-to-machine communications and industrial networking. None of those things can be entirely captured under the heading "instrumentation," but all of them fit under the big tent of "automation." The following letter from ISA President Steve Huffman makes it clear that the leadership of ISA and the rest of us who are for better or worse thought leaders for this profession have to do a better job of helping our members, and in my case, our readers navigate the rocks and shoals of this changing profession: October 5, 2007 From:  Steve Huffman, ISA President To: Walt Boyes, Editor in Chief, Control Subject: ISA Council of Society Delegates Vote - Society Name Change Walt: I had intended to gather my thoughts and the opinions of the many people with whom I talked after the Delegates meeting and offer a point-by-point explanation to your readers on the reasoning behind this vote.  After reading your posting of October 3, you summarized it very well and combined with Pat Gouhin's comments, I can add nothing to make it clearer.  My only clarification to your account is that the new name would have been "International Society of Automation."  To say I'm not personally disappointed would be untruthful, but the vote pointed out a number of things which should be identified.  Of the 20,500 members represented by certified delegates present, 63.8% were in favor with 66% needed for passage, clearly not a resounding defeat.  While it is apparent that there are a few members who are clearly and vocally invested in the past both in terms of ISA's future horizon and in using a historical definition of the term automation, there are many more who merely wanted to see that ISA has not forgotten or forsaken its roots in instrumentation.  Your visualization of automation as the big tent discipline where instrumentation plays a significant role is consistent with mine.  Our leaders have shifted the focus outward for ISA to be dedicated to enhancing the automation profession as that big tent and those who practice in it.  As Pat Gouhin states, we need to lead the charge to define the automation profession to the world.  When we talk to "outsiders" about our initiatives such as lawmakers, senior managers, and others who can influence our profession in a positive way, the term automation resonates well, along with our commitment to become more global.  Neither of these primary reasons for name change was well explained in the supporting material provided to the delegates by mail.  The majority of dissenters cited that we lacked definition, especially by not explicitly stating the important contribution of instrumentation to the "new" automation discipline.  For these things, I will accept the blame.  Many people approached me over the course of the week to express that they were definitely behind our strategic direction, but felt that the leadership needed to do its homework a bit better to present a better case.  I have committed to this and promise to see it through.  Looking back, I would like to say that we have witnessed democracy in action, and I believe we will end up with a better result because of it"¦.just a little later than intended. Steve Huffman ISA President