Source: CSIA and Stewart Media Digital
The 2024 CSIA Award winners include (l. to r.) John Sullivan, senior director at DMC Inc., who won the Emerging Leader award; Frank Riordan, president at DMC Inc., which won the Integrator Member of the Year award; Karen Griffin, VP at Hargrove Controls & Automation, who won the Charlie Bergman “Remember Me” award; Luigi de Bernardini, CEO at Autoware S.r.l., which won the Social Responsibility award; and Jack Barber, senior business consultant at Exotek, which won the Partner Member of the Year award.

CSIA marks 30 years of best practices

May 17, 2024
The Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) celebrates with sessions, exhibits and awards in Dallas

The members of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) must be having too much fun because time flew by, and they suddenly found themselves celebrating its 30th birthday on April 15-19 in Dallas. The party was well-attended with 536 visitors, which was two more than the 2019, pre-pandemic event in Asheville, N.C., and second only to the 599 attendees at the 2018 conference in San Francisco. The CSIA 2024 conference featured 21 sessions, including 15 in three tracks, as well as 60 exhibitors.

“The essence of the CSIA from the very beginning—and still remains today—is the entrepreneurial spirit of the system integrators who started it,” said Jose Rivera, CEO of CSIA, in his keynote address. “It’s a fairly common tale for system integrators to grow, but then get stuck at a level where they need more formal procedures and capabilities, and this is where CSIA and our best practices and third-party certification process come into play.”

For instance, CSIA is extending its professional development program beyond individual system integrators to include everyone at their companies. It will include a library with online content and instructional playlists.

“We’re complementing our best practices by bringing their value to all the employees of our member companies, and cross-training not only their engineers and design departments, but also their accounting and finance, product administration, quality and other departments,” explained Eric Schaefer, director of CSIA’s best practices and professional development program. “This expanded program will cover three areas, including awareness of basic concepts in best practices for system integration, how to grow into new roles, and practice methods to achieve better expertise.”

Karen Griffin, board chair at CSIA and VP at Hargrove Controls & Automation ( in Mobile, Ala., reported that it’s continuing to make progress on the other strategic pillars it launched last year. These include:

  • Focusing on emerging leaders, and giving them a place at CSIA they can access, plug in, develop and grow;
  • Broadening membership on CSIA board to include representation by non-certified members;
  • Expanding professional development for all members and their teams (as mentioned above);
  • Modernizing the CSIA certification process by adding a remote certification option, and multi-site capabilties for system integrators impacted by recent mergers and acquisitions;
  • Further improving the health of CSIA’s financial profile;
  • Adding new website functions and improving its user experience in 3Q24; and
  • Updating CSIA’s mission, vision and principles. 

“I’ve learned more than I could imagine from my competing system integrators by collaborating within CSIA, and I want all of us to have good businesses and healthy competition,” said Griffin. “We have all kind of attendees and members in this incredibly inclusive organization, and we’re respectful, practice good stewardship, and have fun.”

Economic outlooks

To look outward at larger economic issues, the conference included what’s come to be a traditional keynote by Alex Chausovsky, analytics and consulting director at the Bundy Group, who charted and reality checked several of the largest national and global trends. “There are obviously many conflicts, stresses and challenges in 2024, but the U.S. is still a bright economic star with record growth in real gross domestic production (GDP) in 2023 and a growing population that businesses can take advantage of, especially in outperforming states,” said Chausovsky. “This is also a year of elections worldwide, which will shift geopolitical relations and policies. However, the U.S. economy is bigger than politics, and policy changes take time, so businesses should stay focused on running efficiently and profitably.”

Despite widespread predictions of a recession during the past few years, including 61% of typical survey respondents expecting it, Chausovsky reported there was no evidence of recession. “Even the banks have remained very optimistic, and proactively picking up on their optimism can have a big effect. There’s still pervasive negativity and pessimism at many companies, especially at the top, but if their leaders project more positivity, then their staffs will follow, and they can go out and achieve growth,” he explained. “Not only is there no danger of recession, but the U.S. economy grew by 3.1% in 2023, and is on par with the pre-pandemic period. We also had a consumption increase of 3.5%, which indicates the economy will continue to grow for the next several quarters, and we won’t have a macro-recession this year or next year. This why it’s important to look beyond headlines, and understand the impartial economic data that’s available.” 

2024 award winners

To recognize the contributions its members make to the organization and the larger system integration industry, CSIA also announced its 2024 award winners, including:

  • Griffin won the Charlie Bergman “Remember Me” award for “exceptional service, leadership, mentorship and contributions to our strategic and organizational success,” according to nominator Luigi De Bernardini, CEO of Autoware.
  • DMC Inc. in Chicago won the Integrator Member of the Year award, which recognizes an integrator member that’s significantly advanced CSIA and the profession. “DMC is often seen as a company that CSIA members want to emulate,” said nominator Don Roberts, principal at Exotek. “They demonstrate that embracing CSIA best practices can grow their company at an outstanding pace, and have maintained CSIA certification since their first audit in 2009.”
  • Exotek LLC won the Partner Member of the Year Award for also advanced CSIA and the profession. ‘While best known in the CSIA community as auditors, Exotek also participates in its benchmarking, best practices, digital transformation and partner committees,” said Jack Barber, senior business consultant at Exotek.
  • John Sullivan, senior director at DMC Inc., won the Emerging Leader award for displaying leadership traits, innovative approaches and commitment to the industry. Sullivan chairs CSIA’s emerging leaders steering committee and special interest group, and helped craft its charter. “John’s insights into the challenges and opportunities for new leaders in the system integration industry helped set a clear vision for the group and enabled it to get off the ground and gain momentum,” says nominator Greg Young, copresident at Automation NTH.
  • Luigi de Bernardini, CEO at Autoware S.r.l., won the Social Responsibility award for starting @Professionals4Ukraine and One Hour for You (1H4U) that enables participants to donate one hour of extra labor to their companies, which then give matching monetary donations to the Association of Industrial Automation of Ukraine or other humanitarian efforts benefitting Ukraine. 
  • Mark Voigtmann, partner at Faegre Drinker received a special-recognition award for serving at CSIA’s legal counsel for 20 years.

“I’m honored to recognize some of the individuals and firms that help make this organization special,” added Rivera. “I look forward to seeing the impact these recipients continue to make at CSIA, and seeing how the next generation of leaders is inspired by the incredible work of those recognized this year.”

About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control.