Wright Sullivan (l.), president of A&E Engineering Inc., and emcee of the 2023 CSIA awards dinner, presents the Charlie Bergman “Remember Me” award to Andrew Downs (r.), founder and executive director of Sage Group.

CSIA flexes on the Big Easy at annual conference

June 15, 2023
More than 480 system integrators hone their craft at Control System Integrators Association’s 2023 Executive Conference in New Orleans

Charging back to pre-pandemic levels and better, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) hosted 483 visitors at its 2023 Executive Conference on May 14-19 in New Orleans. The event almost reached its pre-COVID-19 record of more than 500 attendees, and featured four keynotes, 50 exhibitors, and 12 sessions in three tracks to help its members and partners serve their clients and run their companies.  

“After eight years with CSIA, I’ve heard members say ‘We’re not your typical system integrator’ so often that we wonder if there is a typical system integrator,” said Jose Rivera, CEO of CSIA, in his keynote address. “So, we don’t talk about what a system integrator is, and focus on the types of organizations in the system integration industry, such as independent system integrators, machine builders, information technology (IT) consultants, engineering procurement contractors (EPC), automation equipment vendors, and end users. So, while there isn’t a typical system integrator, each one has a story to tell.”

Labor pains and prescriptions

 To enable those narratives, sessions at the conference help system integrators at all stages of their careers, including helping them organize their businesses, recruit and retain staff, and prepare to sell them as they retire.

 “Despite the threat of recession, a candidate-driven market remains in place, with most hiring being done by small to mid-sized businesses like CSIA’s members,” said Alex Chausovsky, analytics and consulting VP at Miller Resource Group, during his keynote address. “They need a data-driven labor strategy that reflects the dynamic that they’re competing for candidates across industrial sectors, which means recruiting and hiring won’t be cheap despite the present economic contraction. This data can come from tools like Labor IQ (https://laboriq.co) software to benchmark personnel and perform labor analyses. Many staffers are underpaid by 20%, so increasing salaries, paid time off or other compensation are becoming more important.

 “We’re also moving beyond the old employer-employee relationship to a conversation between two parties, which is much stickier. This requires a more refined talent strategy that involves finding allies within your company because the usual human resources route is likely overwhelmed. There’s also no more time for six or seven interviews because many candidates expect prospective employers to indicate real interest after two interviews. Employers must react and respond to what staff and candidates are asking. It they do this, then they’ll be in good shape with their talent strategy.”

Latest award winners announced

 As usual, the conference was highlighted by the presentation of the CSIA’s annual awards. “Recognizing these members for their contributions and leadership is one of the best parts of my job,” added Rivera. “I’m so grateful for all that they do for the industry and the CSIA community. Congratulations to all.” The winners are:  

Andrew Downs, founder and executive director of Sage Group, won the Charlie Bergman “Remember Me” Award, which recognizes winning members for upholding the principles of sharing, leadership and promoting the profession. “Andrew has supported CSIA for 20 years with consistent participation, sharing of knowledge, board contributions via staff, and more,” said Bob Zeigenfuse, chair of Avanceon, who nominated Downs. “Andrew upholds everything Charlie stood for.”

EKB Groep B.V. won the Integrator Member of the Year Award that recognizes an integrator member that’s participated significantly in advancing the association and profession. It was accepted by EKB’s managing director, Michiel de Lange, and integration manager, Remco Kappert. Over the past year, EKB was a key contributor to the cybersecurity section of CSIA’s newly revised Best Practices & Benchmarks Manual. The team at EKB helped improve this section with its expertise and input from other experts.

Rivergate Marketing won the Partner Member of the Year Award that honors a partner member that’s participated significantly in advancing the association and the profession. It was accepted by Georgia Whalen, president of Rivergate, which had worked on CSIA’s meeting committee since 2016, and delivered highly rated presentations and facilitated panels at its events.

Sean Phillips, project manager at Hargrove Controls + Automation won the Rising Star Award, which honors members who are new to the industry, but display leadership trait, innovative approaches and commitment to the industry. Phillips started as a co-op at Hargrove in 2014, but started leading jobs within two years of graduating, and moved into a technical lead position before becoming a project manager. He’s led several successful specialty chemical and pulp and paper projects, and is presently managing a project to upgrade exhibit simulations at the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center.

About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control.