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Economy Impacts WBF/OMAC Conferences, WBF Repositions Itself

With travel budgets slashed, May conferences are dropped, while the WBF seeks out new operations management.

The WBF (, the forum for automation and manufacturing professionals, formerly known as World Batch Forum, has announced that it is postponing its annual North American Conference this year, and that it is replacing the Automation Federation, a unit of the International Society for Automation (ISA), as the operations arm of the organization. While WBF will remain as an Automation Federation member, the operations of WBF will henceforth be handled by KCA Inc., of Chandler, Ariz., the organization said.

The now-postponed WBF conference had been scheduled for May 4-6 in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and will be rescheduled to a date later in the year, the WBF said. Meanwhile, the 2009 OMAC Integration Symposium, which was to be co-located with the WBF event, has been cancelled, according to an ISA spokesperson. That event, sponsored by OMAC (—previously the Open Modular Architecture Control Users Group, and another Automation Federation member—will not be held this year due to the restrictions on travel budgets of its members. OMAC will still participate in various industry events, including the ARC Forum Feb. 2-5 in Orlando, Fla., Packaging Automation Forum on March 31 in Chicago, and Pack Expo Oct. 5-7 in Las Vegas, the spokesperson said.

Economy rules

Economic conditions were also cited as a reason for the WBF conference postponement. “We believe that we need to respond to the global economic situation in an appropriate way,” said Maurice Wilkins, outgoing Chair of WBF. “We’ve decided that a conference held as early in 2009 as we had originally scheduled it would not serve the membership and sponsors of WBF.”

The WBF does plan to hold a “Press and Sponsors Day,” however, sometime in March in the Chicago area. “We will be inviting the global press and our sponsors to a detailed press briefing discussing the repositioning of WBF into an organization that can have a significant impact on manufacturing going forward…as significant an impact as it has had in the past, with the adoption of ISA88 and ISA95 in manufacturing worldwide,” said WBF Technical Director George Devine, in reference to two ISA manufacturing industry standards.

When the Automation Federation was formed by the ISA in early 2006, the impression was that ISA wanted to become the managing arm for a number of smaller organizations. This so far has met with limited success, and the Federation has since changed directions toward becoming a lobbying organization for the automation industry.

Mutual agreement

“WBF will be remaining as part of the Automation Federation,” said Bill Stewart, incoming Chair of WBF, “but WBF and ISA have arrived at a mutual decision to separate the operations of WBF from ISA.” WBF has retained the services of KCA Inc. as its association management company, under the direction of newly appointed technical director, George Devine, reporting to the board of directors.

“What you’ll see in March,” Wilkins said, “is a revitalized organization that will serve production and automation technology in the process and discrete manufacturing industries long into the future.”

“Other organizations tell you why, and what, for manufacturing execution and manufacturing operations management,” said WBF founder Lynn Craig, “but we tell you how. And we’re the only organization that can tell you how—and have for over 15 years.”

WBF is the home of B2MML, the batch to manufacturing markup language, as well as the continuing global forum for education on ISA88, the batch manufacturing standard, and ISA95, the manufacturing operations language standard.

International Society for Automation



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