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2020 Control Process Automation Hall of Fame: Martin Zielinski

April 15, 2020
Part 3: Martin Zielinski among four inductees to the Control Process Automation Hall of Fame

Read about our other 2020 Inductees: 

From pioneering industrial autonomy to mitigating the risks inherent in large capital projects, the four individuals inducted into the Control Process Automation Hall of Fame this year have all shaped the practice of process automation, and the ripples they’ve already created will long outlast their own careers. All were enthusiastically nominated and confirmed by the current membership—and, I believe, in spirt by those no longer with us, including Charles Cutler who recently left us for more greener, more optimal pastures.

Please join me in welcoming Penny Chen, senior principal technology strategist, Yokogawa; Duncan Mellichamp, professor emeritus, University of California Santa Barbara; Ian Nimmo, owner and principal, User Center Design Services; and Marty Zielinski, technology director (retired), Emerson, to the this esteemed school of very big fish.

A statesman of standards

Martin (Marty) Zielinski officially retired in the fall of 2019. But the 37-year Emerson veteran still maintains an active role on the company’s behalf, monitoring the activities of Technical Committee 65 and select subcommittees of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the global international standards group responsible for Industrial Process Measurement, Control and Automation.

Even part-time, there are few individuals more suited to this role than Zielinski, lead champion of open standards for digital field communications ever since there was such a thing. Starting in 1985, he led the effort within Rosemount to create the original HART protocol, which superimposed a digital, frequency-shift-keyed (FSK) signal atop the industry-standard 4-20mA current signal.

Perhaps more importantly—for Emerson and for industry—Zielinksi championed the release of HART into the public domain, leveraging the marketplace expectation set by the 4-20mA analog standard that field devices from any manufacturer interoperate with any distributed control system on the market. “He then visited virtually all the other suppliers in the process automation industry, sharing the values of standardizing on HART,” says John Berra, then Rosemount president and member of the Process Automation Hall of Fame.  

“He also played a role in the formation of the HART Communication Foundation,” Berra adds, referring to the non-profit to which Rosemount gave full ownership of the HART protocol intellectual property. HART was later adopted as a consensus industry standard, but the protocol’s interim, pre-standardization release to the Foundation helped build broad support for the protocol among automation suppliers, and the approach has been modeled by other aspiring standardization efforts ever since. “And while fully digital protocols have emerged,” Berra notes, “the HART protocol enjoys the largest installed base to this day.”

Zielinski is also veteran of that effort to develop a fully digital successor to HART, an era fraught with competing commercial interests known as the “fieldbus wars.” Zielinski chaired the ISA SP-50 subcommittee charged with developing the physical layer of a fully digital standard, which was finished and approved well in advance of the rest of the standard. That physical layer became that of the FOUNDATION fieldbus protocol, and Zielinski chaired the Fieldbus Foundation executive committee from the very beginning, and “was an incredible leader of that organization,” adds Berra.

Zielinski admits that the industrywide adoption envisioned for FOUNDATION fieldbus didn’t materialize—“it turned out to be more of a niche protocol,” he says—and when the time came to combine the HART Communication Foundation with the Fieldbus Foundation into the Fieldcomm Group, he was there to help manage that transition as well.

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In the end, it’s that he’s earned the respect of his peers—both within Emerson and without—that Zielinski finds most gratifying about his work in the standards world, an arena that requires equal measures of tireless effort, measured compromise and dogged persistence. “Standards activities are filled with different personalities, different goals and agendas, and technical challenges,” says Berra. “But everyone trusted Marty. He was always viewed as acting in the best interests of the industry.”

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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