The Automation Conference: What Did You Miss?

June 11, 2013
If you weren’t able to make it to The Automation Conference 2013 in Chicago, have no fear. Though you missed out on networking with some 230 manufacturing, process plant and packaging professionals or joining in on sometimes quite lively discussions, you can still find out what our great lineup of experts had to share.

At, you can find articles and podcasts from our editors, as well as sponsored videos from tabletop exhibitors. And on Twitter, search #TAC2013 for a full range of great nuggets from presenters. Here are some highlights of the more sought-after and lively presentations this year:

• It’s quite a treat if you can get an automation guy and an IT guy to cooperate on a presentation message, and even more so if the two are from PepsiCo, where manufacturing systems has managed to form a partnership with enterprise IT, leveraging synergies between automation and IT. Jeff Russell, operations manager factory floor automation, and Bryan Cleal, infrastructure engineer, explained in a keynote how they got there.

• Industrial cyber security concerns came to the fore several times during the conference, and we pull many of the points together into an article touching on the highlights. For example, Tofino Security’s Eric Byres warned that air gaps—the idea that you can physically separate your automation and enterprise networks to create a secure plant—are a myth and, in fact, put operations even more at risk if people believe they are safe. Other cyber security highlights came from the Ask the Experts panel on Ethernet on the Plant Floor.

• Sparking a flurry of questions and comments from the audience that went well into the allotted lunchtime, Purdue University’s Gary Bertoline presented what he calls the “fatal flaw” in engineering higher education. The engineering education system in the U.S., he said, has been built around scientifically oriented engineering curricula, producing theoretical engineers who have little knowledge of how to apply skills to real-world engineering jobs. He presented ideas about how to fix the problem. Our coverage also includes some perspective from Barry Lynch of GE Intelligent Platforms, who also attended Bertoline’s presentation.

• Attendees crowded into the Processing session room to hear Kai Mariappan, at the time plant controls specialist and senior controls engineer at Coca-Cola’s plant in Egan, Minn., explain what he has dubbed “cloutomation,” the use of cloud services in automation maintenance. There are several challenges within the automation space that make it ripe for cloud technology, Mariappan said, including the obsolescence of the automation infrastructure caused by aging and technology changes. For additional coverage, also check out a podcast interview that Packaging World’s Pat Reynolds conducted with Mariappan.

Packaging World’s Pat Reynolds conducted a series of interviews at The Automation Conference this year that are available for listening. Follow the links below to find them at

Coca-Cola’s Kai Mariappan

Purdue University’s Niaz Latif

Perrigo’s Trent Martin

CSIA’s Robert Lowe

To get all the coverage of The Automation Conference 2013 from the editors of Automation World and Packaging World, go directly to

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