A look back at my Automation
If you can remember the birth of the DCS and PLC, then the chances are good that you are retired, or at least close to retirement. Both the DCS and the PLC were born in the 1970s, giving them a relative short history. The automation industry, as we know it, is still relatively young. I can only imagine how difficult it was to build a control system in the old days with relays, timers and analog controllers.
I entered the automation industry in 1989 when I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in Electrical Engineering. My first job out of college was as an applications engineer for a manufacturer’s representative of motion control products (Compumotor, now part of Parker Automation).
After a couple of years, I went to work as a sales engineer for an industrial computer supplier that manufactured STD-bus computers and peripherals. At that time, Pro-Log was on the bleeding edge of industrial computing. It was often a tough sell, but I thoroughly enjoyed selling the product. It was during my time with Pro-Log that I was introduced to PC-based control and Windows-based HMI software. In my mind, this was the true start of the "automation software revolution." At that time, SoftPLC had developed an AB-like PLC programming software that ran on an industrial PC.
In 1993, I took a job as a sales engineer with a Minneapolis-based controls distributor that, among other products, sold Wonderware software. With Pro-Log, I had the challenging experience of trying to configure an application using the well-known DOS-based software from Intellution. It’s no wonder (pun intended) that Wonderware launched a competing package for Windows. God bless them!
I quickly latched on to this wonderful software package and made it my cause. I sold it. I configured it. I even taught other engineers how to use it. This was my calling…this software made the automation world go around. Of course, not too long after, Wonderware’s competitors released their own Windows-based packages. Eventually, Intellution (now GE Fanuc), ICONICS, Citect and others were all competing in this space. I had the pleasure of selling Wonderware software for more than four years when the rug was pulled out from under me.
Wonderware was in the process of “reconfiguring” their distribution channel and my distributor was on the chopping block. Fortunately, I was in the know before my managers because the new distributor offered me a job. Except for one thing…I had signed a non-compete agreement that my employer threatened to pursue.
So, I took a job as a sales/marketing guy for a systems integrator who, of course, was known to do a few Wonderware projects. As you all know, Wonderware is now part of Invensys.
In 2000, I was presented with the opportunity to work on a web site called www.automationtechies.com, then a job board focused on the automation industry. The initial site evolved to what Automation.com is today, in addition to a full service recruiting and contract staffing group that still uses the automationtechies name.
And the rest is history. I wanted to share my personal automation history because it’s a small world. The longer you stay in automation, the smaller our world becomes. One company leads to another, either by job change or acquisition. If you enjoyed reading my personal history, read our featured article this week by Jim Pinto. Jim does an excellent job of summarizing the history of automation in…A short history of Automation growth.
Enjoy the rest of this eNews!
Vice President, Publisher