‘ISA is essentially a platform for automation professionals’
An interview with Vithal Magar, President, ISA – Maharashtra Section, on the side-lines of the Leadership Development Meet 2019 held at Goa recently.
What is the structure and hierarchy of the International Society of Automation or ISA as is more popularly known?
ISA or the International Society of Automation is a global non-profit organisation founded in 1945, and has over 40,000 members today. As for the structure and hierarchy, the ISA is divided into 14 districts worldwide and India, together with the Asia-Pacific region comes under District 14. A District is further divided into Sections and Maharashtra is one of the 8 sections in India. All sections in a District select a DVP – District Vice President, who is the liaison between the ISA headquarters in USA and the Sections across the world. The DVP represents all Sections at the HQ during the two annual leadership meetings held. Each year at the beginning the Sections plan their programmes for the year. The basic purpose is to have an interaction among the ISA fraternity. So this is essentially a platform for automation professionals – the members are all individuals, not corporates. The membership is based on fees paid by individual members and there is also student membership offered at concessional rates. In India there are about 950 ISA members across all Sections, not including student members. The vision of ISA is to create a better world through automation.
What is the history of the ISA Maharashtra Section?
In India the ISA was launched with the opening of the Maharashtra Section more than 25 years ago. As membership grew – and India is a large country geographically – other sections were formed including the Pune Section. The Maharashtra Section has the distinction of having the largest number of student members. There are no rigid rules and members are free to migrate from one Section to another. ISA is a member-driven organisation and all members are enrolled voluntarily, they have regular jobs and the office bearers volunteer their time for the organisation – there is no remuneration of any kind.
So how are the events organised by ISA funded?
There are two sources for this – one is from the annual membership fees, the ISA allows a subsidy which is retained by the Section, and the second is for each event we look for sponsors and companies come forward to sponsor these events. In case there is a shortfall even after this, the members pool the amount. The delegates who attend these meets are also required to pay a fee, even the ISA members, who get 20% discount. When any event is included, it is planned at length with the sponsors and the focus of the event decides the target industries from which to invite the delegates, and other such details. During the course of the events we also encourage delegates who are not ISA members to join the fraternity and it often works.
What are the other activities organised by the ISA Sections?
We organise Tech Talks by inviting persons of eminence in specific fields. Then there are seminars and symposiums and during some of these seminars we also organise small exhibitions with 10-20 stalls. Besides we also organise training workshops, and lectures for students.
What about the office bearers at the Sections?
We have an annual election for three positions – President, Secretary and the Treasurer, and for reasons of continuity, the past President is always the ex officio member of the Management Committee. Plus we always have a President-elect who is also a member, as we believe in shadow leadership for smooth continuity. Besides there is the Society Delegate – each Section has a delegate – who represents the Section at the global level, who is also a member of the committee that comprises a total of 14-20 members.
What about the ISA activities with the student community?
We have regular interaction with the member colleges and have 3-4 programmes each year including seminars and some training sessions like how to attend job placement interviews, etc. Plus we have also made a curriculum for them to bridge the gap between what they learn during their academics and what the industry expects them to know. So ISA is trying to bridge this critical gap between industry and academics. To this end, we always have 2-3 members from the academia also in the management committee for better coordination.
There is also a student competition held globally by the ISA that awards scholarships to meritorious students. This is an open competition for students of engineering from all over the world and each year a certain number of scholarships are announced. Last year an Indian student from Pune won a scholarship.
What is your message to the industry – to support the ISA and in what ways?
Yes, there are a few counts where we seek help from the vendor industry – the OEMs. First and foremost, rapid developments are taking place today in industry with technology advancements so we want the industry to come and inform us about these developments. Once we have understood these, we also expect them to educate us – the ISA Members from the user industries – about how to implement these technologies in their respective industry. So these are the two important expectations we have. The other things is of course the financial support with sponsorships for our events. This in turns offers them – the vendor industries – neutral platform for networking with the Consultants and User industries, in an informal way. ISA is a platform for learning rather than teaching that is a different experience, a platform for co-creation and a win-win situation.
One final question – do you think the industry is appreciating the role ISA is playing?
Yes, during the last one year we have had 55 new members joining us, most of them from the industry. So the change is happening as they see the value we bring to the table. We bring together the vendors, OEMs, Consultants, System Integrators, user industries and the academia all at one place. And you have already witnessed an example at this very conference of the collaboration between Imagenous and IIT-BHU where the industry is working with PhD students for a new concept in data analytics. We hope to see more such partnerships in the wake of rapidly evolving technologies in the Industry 4.0 and IIoT era.
Caption Group Photo
Members of the ISA – Maharashtra Section at the Leadership Development Meet 2019 held at Goa recently.