I spent last week at the annual conference of the Control Systems Integrators Association (CSIA). Since it was founded almost 30 years ago, the CSIA has been the leading force in advancement of manufacturing automation in the United States and increasingly around the world. At last week’s conference, over 500 owners and C-level executives from more than 200 automation firms came together to learn, share and teach. They have discovered that “co-opetition” is one of the best ways to grow and improve themselves.
Optimation is a founding member of the organization. This is the 15th conference I have attended in the past two decades. Many other CEOs have attended even more conferences than I. If you ask them why they come back year after year, they’ll tell you that the more they share, the more they learn. Competitors yes, but more importantly peers in attendance have learned much from each other and by sharing the ups and downs of their business experiences they have grown strong friendships and bonds.
We’ve all been open about our experiences over the years. At the 2002 conference, I gave a very transparent testimony about the trauma of running a business during 2001. Many of my own experiences were mutual to those of others. This year I was part of a panel sharing “Lessons Learned from a Hot Stove.” The goal, of course, is to alert others to pitfalls we have encountered and help them avoid repeating our mistakes. Other sessions are on the economy, transformative business models, succession planning, managing legal risks, digital marketing, best practices and financial metrics. It is all done at a practical level that the owners can take back and apply.
We all know that manufacturing is essential to the growing the US economy. We also know that automation is the key to growth in manufacturing. CSIA embodies not only the skills but also the spirit and drive necessary to take the US manufacturing sector to the next level.
The CSIA, in order to improve the standards of the industry, developed a certification program nearly 20 years ago. Companies that chose to can develop internal operations that meet this standard and be audited and certified that they meet the high standard. With each regular revision of the standard comes continuous improvement for the certified firms. So far over 100 companies from the US and many other countries have earned this recognition.
I am sure that the 530 others who were in attendance with me this week will go back to their firms energized, enlightened and more determined than ever to help lift manufacturing to the next plateau. And none will forget the friendships made with their competitors that helped them to make it possible.