Four tips on automation and control integration

Think Again: Spend money on the right things, hire the right people, develop a common infrastructure, be nimble or die: these were among best bits of advice from the 2015 CSIA Executive Conference. See related video: "Redesign processes first, then apply automation to solve problems."

By Mark T. Hoske June 11, 2015

To thrive when using automation and controls, spend money on the right things, hire the right people, work toward a common infrastructure, and become more nimble. These are among the best pieces of advice I heard at the 2015 CSIA Executive Conference. (CSIA stands for the Control System Integrator Association.) See more below, online (with photos), and in this issue.

1. Spend money on the right things. Alan Beaulieu, president, Institute for Trend Research, offered six summary recommendations: 1) Find out where your business is in the growth cycle, 2) Implement growth strategies, 3) Find and eliminate bottlenecks to free up resources, 4) Spend money on people and processes, 5) Plan for higher wages, 6) Plan on higher energy costs in late 2015.

2. Hire the right people by providing a clear view of purpose. Nick Setchell, CEO, Practice Strategies, noted that recruitment failure costs companies a ton of money in three ways. Employees that don’t fit in a company can be 1) hired, trained, and fired; 2) hired, trained, and they quit; or 3) the worst, hired trained, and they don’t leave, damaging company culture. Providing a clear view of business purpose will help ensure the right talent is also a positive cultural fit. Skills can be taught; natural tendencies usually do not change, he noted.

3. Work toward a common infrastructure for one version of the truth. Craig Resnick, vice president, ARC Advisory Group, said companies will be seeking tools and processes to capture and pass on process knowledge as the exodus of talent continues with retiring baby boomers. A common information infrastructure with integrated cyber security will help.

4. Avoid "Uber-ization": Don’t wake up one morning to notice that the main part of your business has suddenly disappeared (like taxi companies and Uber). Dominique Wille, industrial systems director, Lafarge, serves as an internal system integrator and said the time scale for upgrades needs to accelerate from 2 years to 3 months. "The fastest company wins. In 2 years, you could be dead," he noted. Automation needs to be remotely configured, faster, efficient, reliable, compatible with everything, and inexpensive.

Think again about how system integrators’ experiences can help; see more advice below.

Notable: Inspiring five years

On behalf of the dedicated subscribers and other supporters of Control Engineering, thank you CFE Media for "inspiring engineering interaction," as we celebrate CFE Media’s five-year anniversary of rethinking "Content for Engineers" (what CFE stands for). CFE Media uses some of the same advice Control Engineering (established 1954) delivers globally, with more than 1 million touch points per month, to help readers do their jobs better. Learn more at and

– Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,

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Thanks: As CFE Media recognizes its five-year anniversary of rethinking the effectiveness of "Content for Engineers" (what CFE stands for), I mark 21 years with Control Engineering in May. I appreciate the daily learning opportunities from so many in the industry during that time; thank you, all.

See related video: "Redesign processes first, then apply automation to solve problems."

Additional advice from the previously mentioned CSIA Executive Conference speakers follows below.

Alan Beaulieu, president, Institute for Trend Research: Those unemployed are unwilling or unable to go where the U.S. jobs are, especially in engineering. Engineers and others must get retrained with the high-value skills required in today’s market to fill many unfilled positions, for lack of talent. What’s the difference between most musicians and a park bench? Most park benches can support a family. Interestingly, because of the correlation between musical ability and trend analysis, Beaulieu added that he won’t hire anyone who cannot play an instrument. Learn more from Beaulieu. 

Nick Setchell, CEO, Practice Strategies: There will be plenty of automation and control system integrator market demand and opportunities over the next two years, and the busy fools of today will be busier and more tired in two years. Increase focus on a fewer things and increase value. Learn more from Setchell.

Craig Resnick, vice president, ARC Advisory Group: Maintenance continues to shift from reactive to predictive (moving from 15% to 50% predictive within 5 years). Virtualization tools save assets and time; one version of truth is important; cyber security is critical to information convergence as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 initiatives help create smarter factories, he suggested. Common information infrastructure efforts include convergence, enterprise manufacturing intelligence (EMI), the cloud, big data, mobility, analytics, IIoT, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, Industrie 4.0, Smart Factory, and more. The list is long and evolving. Learn more from ARC Forum 2015

Dominique Wille, industrial systems director, Lafarge: The merger of automation and software is a reality providing a fantastic world of opportunity and providing easy integration opportunities with anything, even what’s not on the market today. Architectures that promote faster speed of operations and new implementations are critical. The transition from pure automation to information technology (IT) is needed, since both competencies are needed now.

More from Dr. Peter Martin, Schneider Electric fellow and vice president of business value consulting follows, linked below.

Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.