2022 Control Process Automation Hall of Fame: Thomas A. Badgwell

April 15, 2022
A diversity of perspectives
Meet the 2022 Control Process Automation Hall of Fame inductees

This year, we welcome five new members to the Control Process Automation Hall of Fame. 

  • Thomas A. Badgwell, Chief Technology Officer, Collaborative Systems Integration
  • Lorenz (Larry) Biegler, Covestro University Professor, Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Andy Chatha, President & CEO, ARC Advisory Group
  • Thomas E. Marlin, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Chemical Engineering, McMaster University
  • Brian L. Ramaker, Shell Oil Co. (retired)

As a result of Tom Badgwell’s courage to respond when opportunity knocked, he’s registered a career in process automation that perhaps represents the broadest range of perspectives in the Process Automation Hall of Fame’s incoming class.

His path brought him from the early front lines of commercial model-predictive control (MPC) implementation with Setpoint to graduate study at the University of Texas, teaching and research at Rice University, product development at AspenTech, and on to refinery operations and strategic research for ExxonMobil. And, shortly after taking early retirement from the oil & gas major, Don Bartusiak, fellow ExxonMobil retiree, Process Automation Hall of Famer, and chief protagonist behind the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), was on the phone pitching a new tech startup that would bring the ideas behind OPAF and its Open Process Automation Standard (O-PAS) to life.

So began yet another phase of an already distinguished career as CTO for Collaborative Systems Integration that, together with an array of other IT and OT technology providers, formed the Coalition for Open Process Automation (COPA), and last year brought to market the COPA Quickstart system, which has been billed as the first commercially available open industrial control system in line with O-PAS principles.

Needless to say, it was a very short retirement followed by a busy couple of years, during which Badgwell enjoyed “kind of being my own boss and deciding what to do,” he says. “It’s been very exciting, and there's not a lot of time spent doing things that that aren't productive,” he adds with characteristic understatement. “If there’s one theme that underpins much of my career, it’s looking for interesting, real-world business problems, and then developing new technology to solve them,” Badgwell says.

In addition to the satisfaction earned through problem-solving success, Badgwell has found fulfillment in the mentorship of younger people, from teaching undergraduates at Rice to mentoring colleagues further along in their careers. “Lately, I'm also working with some local high schools, mentoring young folks interested in STEM,” he says.

Badgwell recommends that one invest in one’s own education—both formally and informally on an ongoing basis. “Ben Franklin was right when he said 'an investment in knowledge pays the best interest,' ” he says. Second, have the courage to take advantage of opportunities that come your way. “In my career, I’ve seen opportunities and grabbed hold of them. And I just never, ever regretted that.”

A third bit of advice concerns ethical situations that one might encounter. “Be true to yourself; if something seems wrong it probably is. Remember that, in the end, all you have is your reputation.” And speaking of reputation, make sure that you maintain a professional identity that's separate from the company for which you work, Badgwell says. “Become active in professional organizations; find a neutral place where you can network and present your ideas. Companies and jobs come and go, but your professional colleagues will stay with you, and their friendship can sustain you when times are tough.”

About the author: Keith Larson
About the Author

Keith Larson | Group Publisher

Keith Larson is group publisher responsible for Endeavor Business Media's Industrial Processing group, including Automation World, Chemical Processing, Control, Control Design, Food Processing, Pharma Manufacturing, Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, Processing and The Journal.

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