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New Direction for Automation Federation

Bruno Kisala, managing director of The Automation Federation, recently talked with Automation World Editor in Chief Gary Mintchell about the new directions and goals of the organization.

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This federation of automation societies was formed in 2006 by the Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society (ISA), with charter members including the OMAC Users Group (originally for Open Modular Architecture Control) and WBF (formerly World Batch Forum). The Wireless Industrial Networking Alliance (WINA) is also a member.

Automation World: Could you explain a little about the origins of the Automation Federation?

Bruno Kisala: The Federation was the vision of ISA’s senior leadership. The idea bubbled up from members and other organizations. ISA looked and saw that a fragmented structure of different organizations created competition for time, resources and funding in the automation market space. Additionally, there are a limited number of companies and leaders in automation, making the level of competition difficult. So it made sense to create a Federation to pull together all the smaller niche organizations into a collaborative entity. The original goal was to provide a mechanism that would enable collaboration and cooperation, serve the overall automation community and help the smaller organizations to grow and prosper by providing staff and management support, investment capital and a sound infrastructure, while allowing them to maintain their autonomy and individuality.

AW: Describe the structure of the Federation.

Kisala: The Federation is an umbrella organization structured and operating in a manner that encourages member organizations to grow and diversify on their own. It has a Board of Directors composed of an ISA representative plus the chair persons of the member organizations—currently OMAC, WBF and WINA.

AW: I understand that you’ve just completed your second annual planning meeting, resulting in a new direction. What is the mission now?

Kisala: The first annual strategic planning meeting was how we kicked off the organization, during which the leaders from each member organization agreed that we needed an integrated and collaborative model. But we had to figure out how to work together, whether to have products and services, and how to fund the organization. It turned out that the individual member organizations have very different cultures, creating some integration challenges. However, we wound up developing a model that integrated them into existing infrastructure leveraging the ISA backbone.
At the second strategic planning meeting, which has just concluded, we decided that we needed to raise our sights to a higher level. Our mission is “providing awareness, programs and services that continually enhance the automation profession for the betterment of humanity.” The AF leaders realized that the automation profession as a whole is not a recognized entity. As a result, we collectively felt that our focus should be on workforce development, while enhancing the recognition and viability of the profession.

We’ve made three visits to the U.S. Congress. This year, we plan to fly in a larger number of our constituency to walk the halls and further educate our Senate and Congressional leadership about automation. We’re developing a K-12 grassroots approach and outreach program to influence and educate our younger students about the automation profession in hopes capturing their interests in the profession. We’re also working with the Department of Labor to have them recognize us as a training entity, as we look to take a more active role in training automation professionals.

These are exciting times for both the Automation Federation and the profession!

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