My worst week as an air traveller

A busy flight schedule last week started well: the Monday morning flight to Brussels was OK! After two days at the press conference for the Emerson Exchange European event in the ‘Cube’ in Brussels, which included an enjoyable afternoon seeing the sights around the Grand Square in Brussels city centre, all that was needed was to catch a flight back to Heathrow on Tuesday night: I needed to get home, to then do a quick turn-round and head to Gatwick on Wednesday, to then catch a lunchtime flight Thursday for Cancun in Mexico. This was our holiday trip to visit my son in Mahahual, way South of Cancun, where he lives and works as a fishing guide – so holidays tend to be visits to see him.

A quick trip to Brussels


The special Tintin A300 on the outward journey to Brussels

The taxi ride for a colleague and myself out to Brussels Airport was a nightmare:  we had left Brussels city centre with 3.5 hours available before the 2130 flight time. There were jams on the motorways all the way, and then the slip road to the airport was closed off by the Police. Eventually we discovered from other drivers, and then the Internet, that a suspect vehicle had been seen on one airport approach road, so the airport had been closed, and all current flights cancelled.

Return to Brussels centre?

OK so turn the taxi round, head back for Brussels and try to catch the Eurostar home. Bad traffic again, which made the task of connecting with the last train of the evening, leaving at 2030 approx, impossible. No matter, colleagues in Emerson could book us a room for the night, and we could fly home Wednesday morning! But wait, the Internet now says Brussels airport is now open! Flights are leaving! OK, turn the taxi round, again, from half way back to the town centre, and go back to the airport! No jams now, although the taxi drop off point is Floor 3 of the multi-storey car park. Possibly the taxi driver was happy, as he had a fare of 2.5x the normal airport taxi cost. Maybe he is part of the evolving conspiracy against getting us home?

Fast track departure through the chicanes

Following the suicide bombings at Brussels Airport, in the Departure lounge, there have been some recent re-adjustments to the departure route for passengers, to get the airport operating again. These mean that from the public taxi drop-off point then you walk down the ramps from the car park to the ground floor, pass a couple of 7 foot tall Belgian Army Commandos, and zig-zag thru an entrance route to get to a big reception tent. Here Police and Army boarding card/e-ticket and passport checks only let passengers through into a long baggage screening and metal detector search area, protected by several concrete barriers. Sounds good, and is effective. And as Eoin O’Riain comments, the document checks were all very friendly, helpful (and multi-lingual) and good natured. Then you get to the check in area in another big tent structure, with lots of people – but there are still some automated boarding pass machines. We got thru those, to gain a boarding card each and proceeded to enter the real building, moving quickly now because it was getting late: this meant going up three flights of concrete stairs, emergency exit type, to get up to the third floor again, and the real pax screening.

Thru the ticket check and baggage x-ray, and metal detectors again, and into the departure area. All the time everything had looked OK: but only here did we see a flight departure info screen in English, to discover that our flight was cancelled, because not wanting to get left out of the misery stakes the Belgian air traffic controllers had decided they didn’t like all this hassle of getting to work, and went on strike!

Turn again, back to Brussels centre?

What to do now? Well let’s ask the airline, Brussels Airlines. Some passing local staff told us there was a Brussels Airlines desk in the actual departure gate area, which was the place to go for help. This meant going thru passport control, and then walking the full length of the departure terminal again, to reach the desk at the far end.

Here a very helpful lady said the Air Traffic Controllers would be back at work at 10pm, so our flight could not go because it was scheduled for 2130. Why 10pm? She did not know, but said they always come back then, maybe they get a higher pay rate after 10pm, maybe the pubs close then, who knows? So we were re-allocated seats and a boarding card for the 1100 flight the next morning, and given a Hotel room and a meal voucher for the night.

All we needed to do now was walk all the way round the terminal again, find the exit into the car park, and this time wait for a courtesy bus to get us to the Hotel. Here it is worth commenting that the Belgian Hotel staff were very sympathetic, and had no respect for the air traffic controllers who for personal gain were piling more inconvenience onto those travellers who had shown solidarity with the city, and refused to delay or cancel their travel plans. Next morning , back to the airport for a repeat of the check-in procedure, up the stairs, thru checks etc, only to discover the boarding cards did not scan properly, so we had to go thru another repeat, to re-issue these boarding cards (on a better printer) at a very busy Brussels Airlines desk, which thank goodness was a quick and easy process.

At least I arrived home on Wednesday afternoon, with no further hiccups, to set off at 6pm to drive to a Hotel at Gatwick, to catch the next flight of the week, this time my wife and I were going on holiday to Mexico, to see our son Nick, who is a fishing guide in Mahahual, south of Cancun on the Costa Maya.

On to Cancun, we thought….

Thursday morning saw my wife and I at Gatwick, looking to fly to Mexico on Virgin Atlantic. In fact the flight was Virgin VS093, on 14 April 2016. A nice flight, we’ve used this route before, on a big Boeing 747 Jumbo jet. Gatwick was crowded, and the flight was delayed by nearly an hour, boarding about 1300. Not too many passengers on board, so we could spread out a bit.

After about 4 hours, the hostesses brought several families with young children into our seating area and put them into some rows of spare seats – I thought maybe this was to let the kids lie down. Then it became obvious that there was something else going on, when the Tannoy system made some form of an announcement, finishing with an audible bit that said “We will be arriving in New York in 2 hours”. The flight map also showed that the plane was heading west for New York, having previously been heading southwest, over the Atlantic off the coast of Labrador. First of all you panic, thinking you are on the wrong plane. Then you think there must be some technical problem with it..???

Just another drunken Brit!

It transpired, with a further announcement, that a passenger, a member of the stag party heading for Cancun, had been abusive and threatening to the Virgin staff and some passengers, and generally disruptive. He “needed to be restrained by the airline staff”, and would be kept under restraint in the aircraft until he could be off-loaded into the care of the authorities at New York.


A Virgin Jumbo arriving at Cancun: it can cost up to £200,000 to divert one of these to make an extra stop, and compensate all the passengers who are waiting to fly home.

The plane did a straight in approach to JFK Airport in New York, and in the words of the crew was “held at the edge of the airport for the authorities to board”. The authorities were about six burly policemen, who removed the offender, but then spent about an hour taking statements and info from those who had witnessed the events. Eventually we arrived in Cancun, 3 hours later than planned, which messed up most people’s onward travel arrangements. The rest of the stag party also disembarked, all looking a bit daft in their matching baseball hats and T-shirts.

What happened to the offender, left in New York? Maybe from there he will have to travel home by sea, in a container preferably: he certainly will never fly again, and probably it will take a few years before he has paid off the landing fees for a Jumbo to visit JFK, just to drop him off. I hope he was not the Groom!

[Note: This story is published after our return home, to hail and wet UK snow on the road back from Gatwick, a significant contrast to the 30-40C temperatures experienced in Playa Del Carmen, Akumel, Tulum, Chetumal and Mahahual]

Food & Pharmaceutical Futures

‘Food & Pharmaceutical Futures’ was the title of an ISA Symposium held in Cork, Ireland in March 2016, the first ISA Food and Pharmaceutical Symposium to be held outside North America. Eoin O’Riain reported on the event, which was a major success, in his magazine, and also on-line: his webpage reference is

Most of his report is re-presented here, as follows:

From the time it was first mooted for Ireland in 2015 the planning for the 3rd ISA Food & Pharmaceutical Symposium was embraced with enthusiasm by the local Ireland Section. This was in Philadelphia early in 2015  and since then the ISA’s Food & Pharma Division under the able directorship of Canadian Andre Michel has ploughed forward, overcoming setbacks and the not inconsiderable distances between North America and the capital of Munster. Chair of the symposium and former Ireland Section President, Dave O’Brien directed a strong committee charged with ensuring that this – the first such international symposium organised by the ISA outside North America – would be a resounding success.

And it was.

Venues were assessed, speakers recruited and the various minutiae associated with organising an international event were discussed, duties assigned and problems solved over many late night transatlantic telephone conferences. Using the experience of the ISA staff in North Carolina and the many years of experience in organising table-top events and conferences in Ireland by the Ireland Section a very creditable event was staged at the Rochestown Park Hotel. With some justification the Symposium Chair could state before the event started “We have assembled a truly outstanding program this year, featuring some of the world’s most accomplished experts in serialization, process optimization, cyber security and alarm management to name a few. These experts will speak on the vital issues affecting food and drug manufacturers and distributors. We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring this event to Ireland for its first time outside of the United States!”

Indeed upwards of 200 registrands agreed with this view and attended the two day event: a turnout that nearly doubled the attendance at last year’s event in Philadelphia USA. Plus it was noticeable that the bulk of the delegates stayed right up to the completion of the final sessions.


Technology and Innovation for 2020 Global Demands

Two fluent keynote speakersPaul McKenzie, Senior Vice President, Global Biologics Manufacturing & Technical Operations at Biogen (who addressed “Driving Change Thru Innovation & Standards”) and Dr Peter Martin, VP and Edison Master, Schneider Electric Company (Innovation and a Future Perspective on Automation and Control) may be said to have set the tone. The event was also graced with the presence of ISA International President for 2016 Mr Jim Keaveney.

The technical programme featured 40 presentations, delivered by 33 experts in their fields: a few of the session highlights were as follows:


The important subject of serialization which affects all level of the pharmaceutical business especially in view of deadlines in the USA and the EU. From an overview of the need and the technology to a deep dive into the user requirements, this session provided the latest information on the world requirements and helping provide the solution needed in each facility. Speakers, as in most sessions, were drawn from standard, vendor and user organisations as well as state enforcement agencies.

Track & Trace

In the parallel Food thread of the symposium the rôle of track and trace technologies were examined. Product safety, output quality, variability and uniqueness of customer requirements manufacturers are facing increasing demands on the traceability of raw materials, real-time status of manufactured goods and tracking genealogy of products throughout the value chain from single line to the multiple sites of global manufacturers. The evolution of data systems and technologies being offered means greater benefits for Industry and presenters Vision ID and Crest will show these solutions and the advantage of modernization.

116Both conference threads came together for much of the event mirroring the similarity of many of the technologies and requirements of each sector.


Digitalization in industry shows what bringing the worlds of automation and digitalization together provides true and advanced paperless manufacturing with more complex devices and interconnected data systems. This is an enabler to integrated operations within industry. Using MES as a core concept to create a Digital Plant and optimized solutions with data driven services was explained. And a practical example of a plant was discussed showing the journey to paperless manufacturing and a real pharmaceutical strategy of integrating automated and manual operations.


Of course this is one of the key topics in automation in this day and age. Without implementing the proper preventative measures, an industrial cyber-attack can contribute to equipment failure, production loss or regulatory violations, with possible negative impacts on the environment or public welfare. Incidents of attacks on these critical network infrastructure and control systems highlight vulnerabilities in the essential infrastructure of society, such as the smart grid, which may become more of a focus for cybercriminals in the future. As well as threats from external sources steps ought to be taken to protect control and automation systems from internal threats which can cripple a company for days or months. This session highlighted the nature of these threats, how systems and infrastructure can be protected, and methods to minimize attacks on businesses.

Automation Challenges for a Greenfield Biotech Facility


Networking in the coffee break

These were outlined in this session in the pharmaceutical thread. Recent advances in biotechnology are helping prepare for society’s most pressing challenges. As a result, the biotech industry has seen extensive growth and considerable investment over the last number of years. Automation of Biotech plants has become increasingly important and is seen as a key differentiator for modern biotech facilities. Repeatable, data rich and reliable operations are an expectation in bringing products to market faster, monitor and predict performance and ensure right first time delivery. This session provided the most topical trends in automation of biotech facilities and demonstrated how current best practices make the difference and deliver greater value to businesses.

Process Optimization and Rationalization

Meanwhile in the Food & Beverage thread incremental automation improvement keeps competitiveness strong. Corporate control system standardization leads to constant demand for increases in production and quality.

Industry 4.0 (Digital Factory: Automate to Survive)

The fourth industrial revolution is happening! This session asked how Global Industry and Ireland are positioned. What did this mean to Manufacturer’s and Industry as a whole? The use of data-driven technologies, the Internet of things (IoT) and Cyber-Physical Systems all integrate intelligently in a modern manufacturing facility. Enterprise Ireland and the IDA headlined this topic along with the ICMR (Irish Centre for Manufacturing Research) and vendors Rockwell and Siemens.

OEE and Automation Life-cycle

Worldwide today many of the over 60 Billion Euro spend in installed control systems are reaching the end of their useful life. However, some of these controls, operational since the 80’s and 90’s, invested significantly in developing their intellectual property and much of what was good then is still good now. Of course some aspects still need to evolve with the times. This requires funding, time and talent. For quite some time now there has been a skilled automation shortage at many companies leading organizations to outsourcing, partnerships and collaboration with SME’s to help manage the institutional knowledge of their installed control systems.


Further networking

With corporate leadership sensitive to return to shareholders, plant renovation approval hurdle rates are usually high when it comes to refreshing these control systems. In many manufacturing facilities, engineers and production managers have been asked to cut costs and yet still advance productivity. To solve this dilemma, many world class facilities continue to focus on driving improvements through the use of automation and information technology. Some are finding that using existing assets in conjunction with focused enhancement efforts can take advantage of both worlds. Here we were shown great examples of where innovation and such experiences are helping to create real value for automation modernization.

Alarm management

And of course no matter how sophisticated systems are Alarms are always require and necessary. DCSs, SCADA systems, PLCs, or Safety Systems use alarms. Ineffective alarm management systems are contributing factors to many major process accidents and so this was an important session to end the symposium.

The social aspect of this event was not forgotten, and following a wine reception there was an evening of networking, with music, at the end of the first day.

Training Courses


Eric Cosman in full flow

On the Wednesday, although the symposium itself was finished there were two formal all day training courses.

  1. Introduction to Industrial Automation Security and the ANSI/ISA-62443 Standards (IC32C – Leader Eric Cosman, OIT Concepts ).
  2. Introduction to the Management of Alarm Systems (IC39C – Leader Nick Sands, DuP0nt).

These, and other, ISA courses are regularly held in North America and the Ireland Section occasionally arranges for them in Ireland.

In Summary

Andre Michel, ISA FPID Director, and President of Efficient Plant Inc, summed up the impressions left by this first such ISA conference outside North America: “This was truly an internationally focused event because it tackled the significant issues and trends in automation affecting the food and pharmaceutical industries on a global scale.”

All in all the Ireland Section and its members may feel very proud in looking back on a very well organised and informative event which in an email from one of the attendees, “Thank you all, It was the best symposium I attended in the last 10 years!”

Forgemasters in Sheffield is alive and well! @ProcessingTalk #PAuto

The South Yorkshire steel casting specialist Sheffield Forgemasters has beaten Korean competition to secure a GBP1mIllion deal to cast a press frame for a US customer.

This contract is great news for the UK steel industry, when there is so much bad news about the Tata Steel plants around the UK. The Arkansas-based press manufacturer Ajax-Ceco has awarded Forgemasters the contract for the press frame because of the venerable UK firm’s quality of production and its input into the development and design process. Comprising 550 tonnes of steel, the frame will be almost 13m long, 3.5m wide and 3.2m deep.

“Winning the Ajax casting contract against strong overseas competition and harsh market conditions is purely down to our quality and technical manufacturing skills,” commented Forgemasters sales manager Michael Holloway.“We put a considerable body of work into modeling the casting ahead of a visit from the customer and this threw up some design modifications which were beneficial. This, combined with our history of delivering press frames to exacting specifications, including prior castings manufacture work with Ajax, was crucial to securing the work.”

The company will cast the frame from liquid steel; it will take several weeks to cool before it can be lifted from the casting pit, when it will then undergo heat treatments and machining, Holloway said. The finished article will be delivered to the Southwest Steel Processing forging plant in Newport, Arkansas, USA, where it will form part of a plant expansion, by early 2017.

Third-generation to lead E+H UK business

The current Managing Director of the Endress+Hauser UK sales centre, David Newell, has announced his retirement after serving the company for thirty years. He will be replaced by Steven Endress, the first third-generation member of the Endress family to take an operational role in the family business. Steven’s father, Hans-Peter Endress, the former Managing Director and current Chairman of Endress+Hauser UK, will relinquish his duties as Chairman but remain on the Group’s Supervisory Board.



David Newell

David Newell, now 65, boasts 42 years of experience in the process automation industry, of which he has dedicated three decades to Endress+Hauser. He will retire on 30 September 2016, satisfied in the knowledge that he leaves Endress+Hauser as one of the leading suppliers for process instrumentation in the UK. He joined Endress+Hauser in 1986, and became Director of Sales in 1997 – then Director of Sales & Marketing in 2002. After being promoted to Deputy General Manager in 2010, he assumed responsibility for the entire operation two years later. David is married with two grown children and the proud grandfather of two grandchildren.

Third generation of the Endress family


Steven Endress

The new Managing Director of Endress+Hauser UK, effective 1 October 2016, will be Steven Endress, who is currently Director of Services at the UK sales centre. Prior to joining the company in 2012, he spent ten years in the software development industry. His previous position was Vice President of Sales at AppSense Inc, in Munich, Germany, where he was responsible for the German, Austrian and Swiss markets. Steven holds a degree in business studies and subsequently received an MBA from Lancaster University. Married with two children, the 37-year-old is the eldest son of Chairman Hans-Peter Endress and grandson of the company’s founder, Georg H Endress.

With Steven Endress taking over the management, Hans-Peter Endress (69) will relinquish his duties as Chairman of the Board at Endress+Hauser UK and concentrate on his work with the Supervisory Board of the Endress+Hauser Group.

Happy retirement David!