I love conferences. No, really. I don’t like the packing and unpacking and new routines and trying to squeeze in a workout. But I really get energy from conversations with the many smart people in the industry.

Anyone who has read me for long knows that I see immense benefit from interoperability standards. Perhaps some vendors pay lip service to a standard while trying to close their systems (ISA95 has often been abused by suppliers this way), but overall as engineers adopt these standards and put them in their specs, the more manufacturing will benefit. That means we  all benefit.

This week at the Packaging Automation Forum, Bryan Griffen of Nestle described in detail how adopting PackML–itself an outgrowth from ISA88–is beginning to save his company time and money. After all, our focus must be on making manufacturing a contributor to our companies’ growth and profits–otherwise, why exist?

But another conversation involved “the younger generation.” One generation of engineers has devoted a chunk of their lives for the greater good of the profession by working on all these standards. But the work is not over. We don’t see many young engineers stepping up to take up the cause.

One person thought this might be because of the environment in which these people have been raised. That is–the emphasis on self, on how much money can I make, on “what’s in it for me.”

But they said that about my generation–the Boomers. And the current generation of standards developers all come from that generation. You don’t want to let marketing definitions color your view of people. We had greedy people and idealistic people. So does the younger generation.

I wonder if the problem is boomer management. While some decry coming retirements of boomers, others like me notice that management has been forceably retiring that generation for several years now. As engineering departments are cut, there is little time for other work. Add travel restrictions and management’s lack of vision, and you get other reasons for lack of involvement.

So, what do you think? What have you seen? More important, what can we do about it?

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