From Sean Robinson:
As a past FPID director, I have to add a few general comment, aside from an
endorsement of the 6 point plan.
Part of the reason for the decline in membership and relevance has to do
with the shift of technical talent from within manufacturing enterprises to
outside firms (vendors, consultants, integrators). One of the effects of
this is to turn industry societies into venues where competitors network
with each other, and smother the occasional end-user with predatory
attention. Based on the idiocy of that situation, we also have to recognize
that many small supplier-side firms would be correct in concluding that ISA
offers little to them in terms of marketing/sales leverage (and that’s
really all they care about, now that they’re on the outside of the customer
looking in!). And many small firms, as we know, underinvest in training and
However, I would argue that much of the educational and standards-based work
is of value in its current state even to the small firm. I believe that with
proper promotion, these programs can be successful indefinitely.
Expositions/Symposia and the like tend to be of lesser value, as they
generally devolve into “preach to the choir” sessions. So getting out of the
“bums in seats” activities probably makes sense, as these can be delivered
via a little thing called the Web.
There remain significant challenges in remaining relevant as more than a
tactical training resource. The largest that I see is in adapting ISA’s
mission to coincide with the goals and aspirations of Engineering and IT
execs who have little in the way of internal Engineering and IT staff! This
harkens back to the age-old question of deciding how to be seen as valuable
by people who may have nothing in common with ISA’s traditional members and
their work. Alliances with MESA and ARC make sense, in this regard – ISA may
be able to position itself as the “owner” of the body of knowledge around
the automation foundations that allow the MES and ERP stack to work the way
they should (which plays neatly into S95 and related efforts).
I bring these issues up because I firmly believe that resolving them is key
to long term viability. I think that if ISA were to take a traditional ISA
approach to the booming markets, it could make enough money and gain enough
members to ignore the real issues for another 10 years. Best then, that we
look at the root causes of membership decline in mature markets, because
sooner or later, every market will be mature!
JMP ENGINEERING INC.
MES Business Development Manager