Tracking the Progress of Change

It’s a half decade since Automation World was launched, and in that time, it has established its own special stamp of style and significance in a somewhat staid and stodgy business.

Today, it is arguably the U.S. leader in image, print presentation, editorial content and coverage of global automation business, financial and technical issues. Beyond the printed magazine, the Web site is attractive, effective and generates substantial traffic and advertising revenue. Plus, Editor Gary Mintchell’s regular blogs, Webcasts and editorial mailings are widely followed and respected.

I have been an AW columnist since the magazine’s inception and am proud to be associated with this editorial team. First, I’ll take a look back at some of my own columns over the years, to track the tides of change.

Five years ago, offshore outsourcing was already advancing into knowledge work, beyond just chasing cheap labor. I discussed “asymmetric motivation”—the drive for upward mobility in advancing countries made them hard to compete against. My columns addressed solutions: developing complementary offshore partnerships while continuing to cultivate our own most valuable assets—people. A series of columns analyzed the roots of innovation and the stimulation of winning attitudes.

Go global

A lot of the current growth is being generated by new global assertiveness and agility, championed by our editorial encouragement to “Go global, stay local.” AW has consistently championed aggressive globalization to defy domestic recessionary trends. Too, we advocated following broader market horizons and offering new pricing formulas. We hope our regular readers have been rewarded by increased awareness of what it takes to have the global competitive edge.

While we diligently tolled the bells on obsolete thinking, we extolled the advantages of real-time enterprise software, Web services and smart asset-management. And we continued to alert our readers to approaching technology advances—smart sensors, intelligent robotics and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, all of which are already emerging on the horizon.

ISA is at the crossroads. While the society continues to lead in the development of new industry standards, it is now dedicating substantial effort toward raising awareness of the automation profession to assure continued availability of vital automation skills. We laud the organization’s efforts to expand internationally, and we’ve provided strong editorial support for the new initiatives.

As we advance toward the next five years, look for growth in these key technologies:

• Industrial wireless networks will steadily become integrated with standard plant and office networks and will contribute to substantial market growth

• Machine-to-machine (M2M) communications will unleash a wave of productivity with improved asset management and enhanced service initiatives

• Leveraging the technologies of broadly deployed computers and networks will drive new automation and control systems

• Security has become an urgent issue.

In these uncertain times, if you’ve been “riffed” from a large automation supplier, don’t just look for a similar job; join a small team, perhaps a new start-up in emerging technologies and markets. If you’re in a small or medium-sized company, make sure that you’re focusing resources on growth products and global markets. If you’re part of an automation major, don’t get involved in sustaining efforts for old products with dwindling margins; look for growth through partnerships in global markets, with innovative pricing structures that transcend old mindsets.

Midst the continued uncertainty of the next five years, AW is committed to pointing out new directions. Of this we can be certain: Old dinosaurs will die and new leaders will emerge. Success will come to the companies that understand how to combine advanced technology with innovative sales and marketing ideas, to offer increasingly competitive solutions for global customers.

Hey, if you’re having fun and making money, you’re on the right track.

Jim Pinto is an industry analyst and commentator, writer, technology futurist and angel investor. You can e-mail him at: jim@jimpinto.com. Or review his prognostications and predictions on his Web site: www.jimpinto.com
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