Leadership Changes

I recently returned from Southern Italy. The cycle of life is very apparent when you visit some of those historical sites there. One of the places I visited was an ancient oil grove in the Puglia region on the eastern coast. There were olive trees there that have been carbon dated to a thousand years before Christ. That’s long before the Roman empire. We visited an ancient, subterranean factory where olives were processed to make oil for lamps some three or four thousand years ago. Life moves forward and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Change happens. I thought of this when I read of the leadership changes in two of the most important trade organizations we have in industrial manufacturing: ODVA and the OPC UA Foundation.

Katherine Voss, who has guided ODVA for most of its existence, is stepping down and being replaced by Dr. Al Beydoun. Katherine presided over some significant changes in ODVA. When she began her leadership, ODVA was mostly focused on DeviceNet. In fact, I believe it was called the Open DeviceNet Vendor Association at the time. She’s ably presided over vast changes in the technology, the certification process and herding the group of cats known as members of that organization.

Dr. Beydoun has some significant challenges to face. The CIP technologies (DeviceNet, EtherNet/IP, ControlNet) are considered by some to be outdated and obsolete. They have been excellent tools for many, many years, but customer requirements seem to be changing. Many customers are now connecting their manufacturing systems to Cloud based systems for more performance and quality. The CIP technologies were never designed for that kind of requirement and don’t fit well. Can Dr. Beydoun keep the CIP technologies relevant in this new era?

At the OPC UA Foundation, Stefan Hoppe is replacing Tom Burke as president. Tom has tirelessly evangelized for OPC: first with OPC Classic and then with OPC UA. He has very impressively formed alliances for the technology with many other organizations and important vendors. I can’t stress the tireless part of this enough. I sometimes imagine that instead of a recliner in his living room he has an airline seat because that’s a more normal place for him to sit. I can’t fathom the millions of miles he’s traveled to promote OPC over the last twenty or more years.

Stefan Hoppe is an excellent choice to replace Tom. Stefan has worked with OPC for over twenty years, developing one of the first OPC Classic servers and one of the first OPC UA embedded servers. Stefan has had significant leadership roles in the OPC UA Foundation for many years and has contributed significantly to the growth of the technology and the commercial agreements that are the heart and soul of its success.

As an evangelist for OPC UA, I am certain that OPC UA is the technology of the factory floor of the future. It is the right technology at the right time and it can serve both the needs of sensor and Cloud communications. It is one of the reasons that I do not envy Dr. Beydoun’s job. OPC UA could be the technology that replaces a lot of CIP systems in the future.

But that is the cycle of life for technologies and people. Just like the poor guy cranking out pitchers of olive oil 4,000 years ago who has been replaced, the people, tools and technologies of our world are also certain to be replaced. I imagine some writer three thousand years from now trying to imagine what it must have been like to use technologies like Modbus TCP, EtherNet/IP and PROFINET IO in today’s manufacturing systems. 

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