It was the worst of times, it was the best of times. Sorry Charles (Dickens that is), but I needed an opening for a report of this week’s experiences.

After a couple of days of vacation with my wife and her family I headed to Orlando and ISA Automation Week. This is what is left of the old ISA Expo. I know many great members of ISA. Saw quite a few of them in Orlando Monday and Tuesday. But there were not enough. I saw no official staff person of ISA during my two days there.

No one was in the press room but me (well, and my friend Eoin and his friend Declan). But rumor has it that total registrations were about 240. Up nearly a hundred from Mobile last year, but not nearly enough to sustain this conference in its present configuration. And I’d bet that many of those were not really at the conference, at all, but rather participating in the Fall Leaders Conference occurring concurrently.

I have the utmost respect for Greg McMillan and Peter Martin who undertook the thankless task of organizing the conference portion of the last two years, but getting good speakers must be a very difficult task.

There must be such a disconnect between ISA leadership and membership that they cannot come up with a program that offers sufficient value to members–such that merely 1.5 percent of members show up.

The best thing for me there was a demonstration of interoperability by the Open O&M group showing live data moving from design to operations and maintenance. More on that a little later.

The best of times, on the other hand, is the PI North America conference. I flew from Orlando to Phoenix Tuesday evening and just returned to my room after a full day of meetings.

This is the annual marketing and “pep talk” gathering of companies who develop Profibus and Profinet products and services.

According to Executive Director (and many other titles) Mike Bryant, both Profibus and Profinet are showing robust growth. There was much optimism in the room, and PI NA, believing that a market inflection point is upon it for Profinet, will be undertaking a more aggressive marketing campaign in the next year.

Customers who have implemented Profibus and/or Profinet are always featured keynoters. And this year was no exception.

Mike Bastian, Controls Engineering Manager at Ford Power Train discussed his standardization, flexibility, acceleration strategy. Profinet became the backbone of his strategy. He stated that standardization on Ethernet and Profinet helped drive controls standardization giving Ford better “control” over its drive train manufacturing operations.

Stefan Gallmann, Head of Industry Management, Windenergy, discussed how wind turbines are actually quite complex machines inside, and that when linked in a wind park, have considerable communication requirements. Implementing Profinet greatly simplified the network architecture of a typical wind turbine and the entire park.

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