Leaders Are Learners -- And We Have Just the Opportunity

March 6, 2012
From the beginning of my career, I have sought information from people who had studied leadership and success. Writers from ancient times to now have written on the subject. All the wisdom boils down to just a few precepts. One is “you become what you think about,” and the other is “leaders are learners.”

When you combine the two, you find that what you fill your mind with determines what manner of person you’ll become. You must constantly learn new technologies, new techniques and new business practices in order for you to be successful—and for you to help your company be successful.

There is a greater good for manufacturing and production success as well as for personal fulfillment. That is working for the betterment of industry, promoting new technologies and evangelizing standards. As I write this, I have just returned from the annual ARC Advisory Group Forum in Orlando. This is sort of a “user group” of ARC’s consulting clients where industry leaders gather.

Here are just a few leaders from the ranks of users and implementers of technology that I saw again this year: Cliff Pedersen, who is now working to standardize information flow from design to construction to operations and maintenance in production plants; Jerry Yen, now with Mitsubishi, who led the early efforts of the Organization for Machine Automation and Control (OMAC) when he was with General Motors; Rob Aleksa of P&G and Bryan Griffen from Nestle who are pushing for packaging machine standards within OMAC; Herman Story, who is leading work on wireless sensor network standards; Boeing’s Sid Venkatesh, OMAC leader, and David Odendahl, who leads the OMAC machine tool working group.

I’ve met perhaps a couple hundred more who lead organizations such as WBF, Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA) and International Society of Automation (ISA). These leaders make things better for all of us in industry. You, too, could have an impact. And, as a reader of Automation World, you are already in an elite group. I say that not to be self-serving or self-aggrandizing, but because of careful observation. I noticed a common thread among all of my best customers when I was selling automated assembly machines, and again when I was selling automation equipment—they all read trade journals, books and other sources of information.

They were—and are—leaders in their organizations, and they are learners.

The Automation Conference
Automation World and Packaging World magazines are offering a great opportunity for learning at our new event, The Automation Conference. Building on our six years of success with the Packaging Automation Forum (PAF), this year’s edition convenes May 22-23 at the Hilton in Rosemont, IL (close to O’Hare airport) and also includes tracks for factory automation and process automation. The speaker line-up is stronger than ever; you can check the latest speaker list as well as register at www.theautomationconference.com.

The after-conference chats are something else that should not be missed. One reason I love this conference, beyond excellent presentations, is that after the regular sessions are over we have taken some deep dives into engineering and manufacturing topics. You know that engineers must talk with a pen in hand in order to draw. Did you know that in the absence of pen and paper, Brazil nuts on the black tablecloths of cocktail tables works just as well?

Check out my article on leadership this month and let me know what you think about real leaders. We also feature best practices for implementing MES (p. 38) and a look at machine safety (p. 44). As always, let me know what’s on your mind.