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Factory and Plant Automation Come Together at The Automation Conference

The Automation Conference (TAC 2012), the first of a planned annual event hosted by Summit Media and its Automation World, Packaging World and Healthcare Packaging magazines, made its successful debut May 22, 2012 in suburban Chicago.

Speakers at The Automation Conference included Boeing’s Sid Venkatesh (top right) and ExxonMobile Chemical’s Chris Wells (lower left). Automation World Editor Gary Mintchell (top left) moderated the industrial Ethernet panel discussion.
Speakers at The Automation Conference included Boeing’s Sid Venkatesh (top right) and ExxonMobile Chemical’s Chris Wells (lower left). Automation World Editor Gary Mintchell (top left) moderated the industrial Ethernet panel discussion.

The two-day event brought together nearly 200 cross-industry professionals to hear about and discuss the manufacturing, process and packaging automation issues they’re wrestling with and solving.  Attendees said they benefitted from the “excellent networking opportunities” and “ability to re-cast my focus in the light of what others in the industry are doing.”

Twenty speakers filled three simultaneous tracks with presentations ranging from cyber security to device-to-controller interoperability to mobile operator technologies and workflows. The event also included a packaging industry roundtable discussion, and the first ever industrial Ethernet panel featuring representatives from six of the major protocol organizations addressing the question, “What’s the difference among your protocols?”

“From a conference organizer’s point of view, the excitement and interest I saw from so many attendees about attending specific sessions was impressive,” said David Greenfield, Automation World media and events director. “I’ve been attending industry conferences for 20 years, and rarely have I seen attendees so attuned to an event agenda and actually having difficulty deciding which session they would most like to attend.”

Speakers included Chris Wells, senior staff instrumentation engineer at ExxonMobil Chemical (www.exxonmobilchemical.com), who spoke about how “programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are still the workhorses out in the field” for the international oil, gas and chemical company.

ExxonMobil employs PLCs for independent Safety Instrumented Systems (SIS), machinery control and protection, and other important roles. As a result, Wells said managing PLC lifecycles is critical. Immediate challenges for ExxonMobil’s infrastructure are shorter plant maintenance shutdown windows to update and maintain PLCs, increased security concerns, standardization and components, and the complexity involved with integration into the main control system.

Sid Venkatesh, associate technical fellow at Boeing (www.boeing.com), spoke on the aerospace company’s new business model for design, manufacturing and assembly. Dubbed “collaborative manufacturing,” the new approach includes expanded responsibilities for 22,000 suppliers or “structure partners,” new roles for Boeing personnel, and use of a common product lifecycle management (PLM) system.

“The presenters at this year’s conference exceeded expectations. All the presentations, at their core, had information about automation technology application that could be used directly or adapted by attendees in their jobs,” said Greenfield. He said videos of keynote presentations and other event content will be available online in the coming months via www.automationworld.com/tac2012. Plans for TAC 2013 are currently in the works.

>> Click here for coverage on The 2012 Automation Conference. 

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