The inscription on the brass plaque read ‘FIELDBUS CORNER’.
It was nailed to the table in the corner of a pub in rural England…
Michael Volz, Geoff Hodgkinson, and I drew up the first ideas for the PROFINEWS newsletter on the back of a cocktail napkin at that table. The Welcome for Issue 1 of PROFINEWS was provided by Ed Hoffmann, Chairman, PNO Germany at the time. His first sentence reads,
“Welcome to the first issue of PROFI-News which the PROFIBUS User Organization will publish regularly to bring you news of the world’s most readily available, standard, fieldbus technology.”
That mission rings as true today as it did in 1994 –except the technological scope has grown and some names have changed along the way.
A Worldwide Community
By the time the first issue of PROFINEWS was published, I had already founded and built the PROFIBUS Trade Organization (PTO) and was heavily recruiting new members. By the time the second issue of PROFINEWS was published towards the end of 1994, the PTO had 25 member companies. That number grew to 67 in 1995 when Wonderware joined the Board of Directors in the form of Carl Henning. By mid-1996 I had 130 members and the rest, as they say, is history. Around that time, two key persons joined the community: Edgar Küster and Klaus-Peter Linder. After Klaus-Peter and Edgar, the PNO was run by Jörg Freitag until Karsten Schneider took over.
The reason I mention all of these individuals by name is because this organization has always been about the relationships. As incredible as the success of PI’s technologies has been, it’s the people that do the work and get the job done.
While an occasional look back can be fun, I turn now to what’s ahead for PI.
If the world has changed significantly in the last 25 years, then industrial automation networks haven’t really changed all that much. The way we run our plants and network our devices is fundamentally the same. Only the means to do so have evolved. As the world has gotten smaller, the range of applications for PROFIBUS and PROFINET has gotten larger. Speeds have increased. Data access has improved. Downtime is being minimized and throughput is being maximized.
Collaboration, Then(!) and Now
The fieldbus wars of the 1990’s and early 2000’s are over (we won). While collaboration may be the future, it’s also the past. For example, as we look to collaborate further with other organizations like the OPC Foundation, that relationship actually began over two decades ago. News of which made the cover of PROFINEWS Issue 9 in March 1997:
Digitalization Comes Full Circle
So the future lies, as it did in the late 1980’s in digitalization. The goal of PROFIBUS then was to bring the richness of digitalization to industrial communication networks. The goal of PROFINET today is to help bring the power of digitalization to industrial manufacturing in general. Not a small goal then, and not a small goal now!
While the last 25 years have been fun, the next 25 years look to be even more so. More attention is being paid to industrial automation than ever in its history as manufacturers seek to continually optimize their plants. Information Technology departments crave the data produced by evermore intelligent devices on the factory floor. Grappling with and solving these challenges is something we’ve always done –and something we’ll continue to do. And maybe the back of a cocktail napkin is not the worst place to begin jotting down our ideas.