October 2005

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Vernon TrevathanEMAIL INTERVIEW  Vernon Trevathan & Ken Sinclair

Vernon Trevathan, P.E., PMP, has worked in process control and project management for 40 years, mostly with Monsanto Chemical Co. in engineering and manufacturing management positions. He also was Vice President of Benham Co. in charge of the St. Louis and St. Paul System Integration offices. An ISA Fellow, he currently consults and teaches automation project management and general control.

A Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge

The intent is to bring together in one place information on the full range of technologies in automation so that those working in the field and also those wanting to understand it better can get a good grasp on the technology.

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Sinclair:  Tell me about the new book, A Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge that will be published in October, 2005, by ISA - The Instrumentation, Systems, and Automation Society.

Trevathan:  This book covers the entire field of automation including process and discrete control, motion and motor control, safety systems, digital communications, networks, security, software, Building Automation, and others in thirty-five unusually comprehensive but concise topics.

Sinclair:  Why do we need one more handbook on automation?

Trevathan:  Unlike the usual handbook which is for looking things up, this book is intended to educate so the topics are designed to actually be read and studied – even though there is a lot of technical detail. Also the scope of the book is much greater than any of the existing handbooks on automation. The intent is to bring together in one place information on the full range of technologies in automation so that those working in the field and also those wanting to understand it better can get a good grasp on the technology.

Sinclair:  What level of experience is the book directed to?

Trevathan:  Each of the thirty-five topics is intended to be understandable by someone with little knowledge of that topic and also to have value to someone who is very knowledgeable. This makes the book useful to everyone interested in automation regardless of their level of experience.

Sinclair:  Since most of us work in only a limited area of automation, why do we need to know about the entire field? In particular, many have considered Building Automation somewhat separate from other types of automation; why include that area?

Trevathan:  The synergies among the different areas of automation have increased dramatically in the past few years, particularly as we continue moving toward more open systems and communication methods. In the past, for example, control of processes and control of motion systems were treated by different technologies -- now there are numerous areas of overlap; and digital communication networks used in manufacturing automation systems were different from the communication systems used in Building Automation – but now there are many areas of common technology there also. Broader understanding of related technologies helps one do her/his job better.

Also people working in one area today may find themselves assigned to a project in a different area tomorrow. That happened much less frequently in the past.

Sinclair:   ISA has not been known for having a focus on building automation, is that changing?

Trevathan:  For several years ISA has been increasing its emphasis to cover all of automation. This book is part of a major step change in how ISA views its scope.

Sinclair:  But isn’t Building Automation really an application, not like the technology topics such as simulation, digital networks, and software that make up most of the book?

Trevathan:  Yes, but Building Automation is considered to be important enough that it was given a topic of its own in the book.

Sinclair:  Is this book related to the new ISA certification, Certified Automation Professional (CAP)?

Trevathan:  The need for a comprehensive, technical treatment of the scope of CAP was one of the early drivers for this book; but the book is for much more than CAP. In fact, CAP is not even mentioned in the title.

Sinclair:  How can one obtain a copy of the book?

Trevathan:  ISA is taking orders for end of October delivery at:


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