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Meet Control's returning Editor in Chief: Keith Larson

Jan. 22, 2020

The turning of a New Year—let alone a New Decade—provides a key opportunity to reflect on time passed and to visualize the path ahead.

For me personally, 2020 marks a return to the Editor’s Page of Control following December’s retirement of Paul Studebaker, to whom I’m eternally indebted for his steadfast stewardship over the years.

Indeed, some of the grayer-haired among you may remember a much younger version of me that left the chief editor’s chair back in 1997. But truth be told, I’ve never strayed far.

As publisher, I’ve been attending to the business side of Control, while also working to launch and develop new media brands within the Putman Media family, including Control Design, Pharma Manufacturing and most recently Smart Industry, which will hold its fifth annual conference focused on accelerating the digital transformation of industrial organizations this coming March.

By way of reintroduction, I discovered my passion for learning new things and making them intelligible to others during my days as a chemical engineer doing research for Amoco Chemicals (now BP) and teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana. Consequently, the common denominator to my work at Putman Media these past three decades (that anniversary also happened in December!) has been to connect industry professionals with the insights and decision-making resources they need to advance the productivity, safety and sustainability of their operations.

In preparing for my comeback, I had a chance to review our bound, archival issues of Control from when I last penned this column. And while the new boss might be the same as the old one, the headlines then and now made me think more of the apocryphal saying that “History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” The wheel of progress continues to turn, but patterns persist.

For example, in 1997 the term computer-integrated manufacturing, or CIM, was just fading from fashion—yet many of its tenets presaged the more recent rise of Industry 4.0 and the Industrial IoT, albeit with more of an emphasis on structured, closed-loop control of the manufacturing enterprise than today’s more flexibly autonomous cyberphysical systems of systems.

“Intelligent software technologies” such as expert systems, neural networks and fuzzy logic also made headlines in 1997, which today would fall under the category of first principles and data-driven operational analytics. The mobility discussion of the day focused on the short-lived promise of Microsoft’s Windows CE platform for pocket-sized computers, rather than today’s cloud-connected smartphone apps. And the open systems tussle-de-jour was between UNIX and Windows NT; widespread application virtualization and a containerized DCS environment such as that visualized by the Open Process Automation Forum were still a long ways off.

A nascent appreciation for the cyber vulnerabilities of digital control systems was just beginning to take hold, as signaled by the Clinton administration’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, which in 1997 first issued a call for a national effort to “assure the security of the United States’ increasingly vulnerable and interconnected infrastructure.”

Cybersecurity is only one of the industrial control system landscapes that has become far more complex since 1997. And with today’s rapid pace of technology advancement and ongoing shifts in workforce demographics, industry has never been in greater need of timely, credible insights and decision-making resources. And it’s my pledge to you to continue to advance and refine the delivery of those insights where and when you need them—whether in the pages of this magazine or, increasingly, through our digital resources centered on ControlGlobal.com.

If you have a moment, let me know how we're doing and what you'd like to see from us in the future. It's good to be back home.

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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