ISA Process Industry Virtual Conference Highlights Open Process Automation and More

ISA Process Industry Virtual Conference Highlights Open Process Automation and More
ISA Process Industry Virtual Conference Highlights Open Process Automation and More

Nov. 2, 2021 - “In the past few years, open process automation and industry initiatives have focused on open modular, interoperable and portable solutions,” Bridget Fitzpatrick, Process Automation Authority for Wood Applied Intelligence, said during her keynote speech at the International Society of Automation (ISA) Process Industry Virtual Conference (PIC). The level and pace of competition in the process industries are highlighting the need for better solutions, she added.

Fitzpatrick, who has more than 30 years’ experience in process engineering, is an ISA Fellow who has been active in the association since the 1990s. In her PIC keynote called “Future Ready Now: Developing, adopting, and managing new technology,” she discussed how process automation has developed over the years and what it means to be future-ready now.

“I’m suggesting we set our redesign sights back on the drawing board and create engineering solutions that best support the underlying functional requirements,” Fitzpatrick explained. “The companies that embrace the possibilities of these new platforms will be future-ready and potentially the most successful.”

The evolution of process control

Fitzpatrick briefly reviewed the history of process control, beginning with Industry 1.0 (mechanization) and reviewing Industry 2.0 (mass production), followed by Industry 3.0 (automation) and Industry 4.0 (digitalization).

“Back in the good old days, the control system was a set of carefully designed instruments and final elements wired together,” she said. “As things evolved, the instrumentation and controls got fancier and greater in number. The count of final elements per operator has increased and at times outpaces the realities of human limitations.

Fitzpatrick summarized some of the key ways changing technology has impacted the process industry over the decades. Control schemes have become more complex and interactive, and the expansion of operations has given engineers inspiration to become even better at problem solving. The increased scope of optimization led to the implementation of advanced control systems, and engineers integrated automation to execute known responses.

Getting ready for the future

Fitzpatrick said becoming future-ready now is a journey worth taking. Becoming “future ready” highlights different opportunities for each segment of the industry:

  • For vendors, embrace the opportunity to refine and leverage intellectual and help better manage commercial and custom client technology.
  • For operating companies, it is an opportunity to step back and redesign to leverage technology rather than perpetuate the existing controls.
  • If open, when the next new hardware is needed, you can port your IP to the new platform and not have to rebuild.
  • There will be some control design evolution, but it will be driven by a performance improvement rather than by obsolescence.

Open Process Automation (OPA) Forum

Wood Applied Intelligence is member of the Open Process Automation Forum, which works on a standards-based open, secure and interoperable architecture that: enables access to leading edge capability, preserves asset owners’ application software, significantly lowers cost of future replacement, employs an adaptive intrinsic security model, promotes innovation and value creation, enables collaboration between users and suppliers and more.

“We have put together systems that are orchestrated together with common interface standards, ability to be interoperable and to leverage the intellectual property with portability,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have systems that have different underlying operating systems, different hardware manufacturers, different software platforms and different applications vendors.”

In summary, Fitzpatrick highlighted four major focuses of future ready now initiatives: leverage technology, including open systems; customize when you need to; standardize where it makes sense, figuring out the best method for common unit operations; and enable the operator to agilely respond to opportunities.

The virtual PIC event also featured sessions on the best practices for automation project management, digitalization of functional safety, and a variety of technology demonstrations.

Find out more about all ISA events related to process control and automation, industrial IoT, cybersecurity and more here.

About The Author

Melissa Landon is a content editor at

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