ISA’s 2015 Process Control and Safety Symposium report |

ISA’s 2015 Process Control and Safety Symposium report

November 19, 2015 - The 2015 ISA Process Control and Safety Symposium, held last week in Houston, Texas, drew more than 400 attendees—double the initial projection—to examine solutions to the varied challenges facing process measurement and control professionals in chemical and energy processing, pulp and paper, and other process industry sectors.

Uniting the global expertise of seven ISA technical divisions and with the support of ISA’s Houston Section, the symposium featured: three outstanding keynote addresses; the perspectives of many of the world’s leading process automation experts; interactive panel discussions and tutorials; 45 vendor demonstrations and exhibits; three ISA training courses; lively networking opportunities; and other value-packed activities.

“ISA is extremely pleased that so many process automation professionals attended this year’s ISA Process Control and Safety Symposium,” emphasizes Richard Roop, 2015 ISA president. “The outstanding turnout reflects the need and demand in the Houston area and beyond for best-practice strategies and tactics for improving process automation safety and security.”

Nearly 150 technical presentations and papers were presented, covering the critical forces and factors affecting safety, security, communications, and instrumentation and control in chemical, petrochemical and oil and gas processing. Particular attention was placed on exploring how the most pressing challenges were expected to impact future performance metrics and ongoing operational needs and requirements.

“Automation professionals are realizing they simply can’t get all the technical information they need—and their critical questions answered—just by going online,” asserts Paul Gruhn, Global Functional Safety Consultant at aeSolutions and one of the keynote speakers at this year’s PCS event. “They’re recognizing that to gain quality technical content and really improve their knowledge, they need to interact directly with the experts.”

The strong turnout of this year’s event, Gruhn says, illustrates the value of in-person meetings and the fact that ISA’s PCS Symposium is building a reputation for covering issues of vital importance and interest to process control professionals.

“Attendees know that the hot topics and issues—in such areas as cybersecurity, upcoming standards, safety system testing, burner management systems, and so on—are going to be addressed at this meeting,” he says. “At the end of the day, if you want to advance in your career in process control and improve your knowledge, you need to attend this conference. Where else are you going to be able to interact face to face with so many experts and members of standards committees?

“Simply put, you just can’t get this—this degree of knowledge, interaction and networking—anywhere else.”

What other industry experts are saying about the PCS Symposium
“The PCS event is special because it brings together leading experts in so many areas of process control safety and security,” remarks Nick Sands, CAP, PE, Manufacturing Technology Fellow at DuPont Protection Technologies. “Attendees mentioned to me that they were drawn to the quality and diversity of the technical tracks, such as those on HMI, alarm management, the Industrial Internet of Things, reliability and other key topics. When they leave this conference, they leave with the practical, real-world knowledge they can immediately apply in the workplace to make lasting improvements in safety and security.”

Rhonda Pelton, Process Automation Manager at the Dow Chemical Company, recommends that automation professionals of all degrees of experience and expertise attend the PCS Symposium.

“This conference is about staying ahead of, not simply reacting to, change,” Pelton says. “There are so many critical challenges to be faced within the petroleum and petro-chemical industries. They include the need to migrate from older-technology control systems to newer ones with more advanced capabilities; the need to confront the growing risk of cyberattack; the need to better capture and leverage available data to make more effective decisions and so on.

“Given all the challenges, the PCS symposium presents a valuable opportunity to bring collective focus on developing innovative solutions. This is because this event attracts the brightest of the bright. There is so much knowledge, experience and thought leadership at work here.”

The PCS symposium, she adds, is also vitally important to younger automation professionals because “they’re confronting all this change without the perspective of the past and sometimes without complete grasp of the fundamentals. By providing such robust technical content, instruction and discussion across so many areas within process control and safety, this event can in many ways bridge the knowledge gap.”

Kash Behdinan, Ph.D., PMP, Program Chair of the2015 Process Control and Safety Symposium, says he is gratified that this year’s event was so well received and predicts even greater success for the symposium in the future.

“By covering so many essential topics and advances in process control safety and security, this conference is a really unique opportunity for automation professionals to collaborate and share ideas,” Dr. Behdinan states. “As the program chair for this symposium, I am very excited to witness its growth and I expect the event will deliver even greater value in the years to come.”

Three outstanding keynote presentations
The event showcased insightful presentations by three distinguished speakers: Maurice Wilkins, Ph.D., Vice President of Yokogawa’s Strategic Marketing Center; Lloyd F. Colegrove, Ph.D., Director of Data Services and Fundamental Problem Solving at the Analytical Technology Center within The Dow Chemical Company; and Paul Gruhn, the functional safety consultant at aeSolutions.

Wilkins’ keynote presentation examined recent workforce trends, the differences between the Boomer and Millennial generations and their expectations; and how standards and technology are helping Millennials gain the experience needed to close the so-called “skills gap.”

Colegrove’s presentation illustrated how Dow Chemical is leveraging Big Data to transform chemical manufacturing data to information, then knowledge, then wisdom.

Utilizing a collection of videos, photographs and stories, Gruhn’s presentation covered lessons learned from previous process control accidents and how to best avoid any future mishaps.

Industry-proven ISA training in process safety, security and wireless systems
Attendees were able to choose from three industry-proven ISA courses (and earn valuable CEUs) encompassing the critical components of safety, security and wireless communications. The training courses conducted were: 

Introduction to Industrial Automation Security and the ANSI/ISA99 (IEC 62443) Standards (IC32C)

An Introduction to Safety Instrumented Systems (EC50C)

Industrial Wireless Systems (IC85C)

A sold-out vendor exhibit featuring premier companies and leading-edge solutions
The premier companies serving the oil and gas, chemical, petrochemical, and related markets—45 in total—presented and demonstrated their products and services at the exhibit component of the symposium.

Attendees were able to learn about the latest technologies and applications across all core solution areas, including:

Control systems

Chemical and energy processing

Data management instrumentation

Wireless networks

Process and functional safety

Safety Instrumented Systems


The list of corporate sponsors and exhibitors includes:




CSA Group

CSE w-Industries

Emerson Process Management



Evans Consoles


ISA Security Compliance Institute


ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute


MAVERICK Technologies

MESA International

MicroPack Detection

Opto 22

PR Electronics


Rockwell Automation

Schneider Electric

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories


Siemens Industry

SIS Tech

The Modal Shop, Inc.

Trinity Integrated Systems

Ultra Electronic

Other event highlights
Other highlights of the 2015 ISA Process Control and Safety Symposium were:

A meeting of the ISA Standards Group for S106 – Procedural Automation for Continous Processes

Two “Tech Days,” on the evenings of Tuesday, 10 November and Wednesday, 11 November, when the exhibit hall was open to all automation professionals in the Houston area

A special gathering of young automation professionals (known as YAPfest) from the ISA Student Section and the University of Houston

Robotics demonstrations by two high school teams within the FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition

Live band entertainment and an exhibit reception and award ceremony on Wednesday, 11 November

A bus trip on the evening of Thursday, 12 November, to the ISA Houston Section’s annual Chili Cookoff

About ISA
The International Society of Automation is a nonprofit professional association that sets the standard for those who apply engineering and technology to improve the management, safety, and cybersecurity of modern automation and control systems used across industry and critical infrastructure. Founded in 1945, ISA develops widely used global standards; certifies industry professionals; provides education and training; publishes books and technical articles; hosts conferences and exhibits; and provides networking and career development programs for its 36,000 members and 350,000 customers around the world. 

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