10 automation books you must read before you die!

10 automation books you must read before you die!

Digital vs print

In the digital age, you can get all kinds of information online. In fact, it’s wonderful that we can access knowledge in just a couple of clicks. On the other hand, how much of that information can you trust? The fake-news phenomenon makes us all a little leery, but you can find some perspective by reading different points of view.

In general, we in the automation world are lucky. Few people want to create fake news about us, and nobody will try to sell you a device that lacks functions mentioned in the advertising. However, we still have a lot of fine print, and some marketing seems more confusing than informative. You may think you know how to run a particular feature, but it has requirements that can change your whole system. Thus we say, “When in doubt, read the manual.”

Speaking of manuals, books aren’t dying, as some alarmists like to claim. Reader behavior has changed, so you’ll find a percentage who prefer ebooks. But if you look at the graph here, then you’ll find that most people, at least in the U.S., still prefer hard copies.

Courtesy of Book Reading 2016

Libraries around the world

Yes, libraries have declined in popularity, but excellent libraries around the world still exist. Before we talk about them, I need to confess that I’ve lived in Berlin for a year now and never been to the public library! I can’t say if it’s a cool place or not. However, I’ve visited libraries in many other countries in my travels! Funny, huh?

Toronto has a fantastic public library. Everything inside is modern, maybe to catch more attention from the new generations. And it has a great mix of technology and tradition; wifi, up-to-date computers, and digital meeting rooms live in harmony with classic bookshelves and study areas.

Manchester has a marvelous library too, with a similar blend of online and offline amenities. Even better, it has an area devoted to music – not only sheet music and books but also actual instruments like pianos, guitars, and drums! You can book them for an hour and play for free! So cool!

Automation and Automation books

When I was a student, I used to consult books in my college library. I read some, but many I just used as a reference to solve a problem or get new knowledge in a certain area. Sadly, technical books have one big hurdle: the price. These tomes can get expensive. Protip: If it looks too steep for your wallet, then ask your company to buy it!

I did that with the FOUNDATION Fieldbus book written by Augusto Pereira and Ian Verhappen. The company I worked for bought it to answer a consultant question on field networks for our technical team. Worth every penny, even if those pennies didn’t come from my pocket.

With that in mind, I’ve created a list of 10 must-read automation books! Some you can buy as ebooks but others only come in the paper form. I’ll admit I haven’t read all of them front to back, but I’ve consulted them during my career and found their information very valuable.

101 Tips for a Successful Automation Career
Courtesy of ISA

This book has a lot of useful insights for budding engineers. Greg McMillan and Hunter Vegas offer ideas that go from how to use checklists to getting the most from wireless devices and how to be a good listener! Yes, that too. You may be surprised how useful that tip is.

Authors: Greg McMillan and Hunter Vegas
Copyright: 2013
Length: 250 pages

You can read more about this book here.

Automation Made Easy: Everything You Wanted to Know about Automation-and Need to Ask
Courtesy of ISA

This book provides a basic overview of industrial automation. Whether you’re still a student or have a few years under your belt, you can still use this book as a quick reference if you have a question about a particular automation topic.

Authors: Peter G. Martin, PhD, PE, and Gregory Hale
Format: Softbound
Publisher: International Society of Automation

You can read more about this book here.

Industrial Flow Measurement, Third Edition
Courtesy of ISA

If there is one process variable where field engineers and technicians have problems, it’s flow. David Spitzer brings insights and technical details about principles, applications, limitations, and performance in the world of flow. Many of you know how relevant this man is to automation, so when I had a chance to chat with him, I jumped on it! Maybe I’ll write about it later.

Author: David W. Spitzer
Copyright: 2005
Length: 443 pages

You can read more about this book here.

Fieldbuses for Process Control: Engineering, Operation, and Maintenance
Courtesy of ISA

If you want to learn about fieldbuses, then Jonas Berge can give you a good start! You can learn all the steps in a fieldbus project from engineering to maintenance. If you want a peek at the quality of this guy’s writing, then check out his articles on LinkedIn. They reflect the same values that you’ll find in his book.

Author: Jonas Berge
Copyright: 2002
Length: 468 pages

You can read more about this book here.

Foundation Fieldbus, Fourth Edition
Courtesy of ISA

I connected with Augusto Pereira in Brazil, and after I got to Berlin, I had a chance to talk and work with Ian Verhappen. How’s that for luck! I read this book first in English, then in Portuguese, and got a ton out of each reading. If you want practical information about FF, then read this book.

Authors: Ian Verhappen and Augusto Pereira
Copyright: 2012
Length: 221 pages

You can read more about this book here.

Wireless Control Foundation: Continuous and Discrete Control for the Process Industry
Courtesy of ISA

I was a wireless product manager for a while in Brazil, and I used to read a lot about this technology. Terrence Blevins, Deji Chen, Mark Nixon, and Willy Wojsznis created a good reference on the technology, terminology, monitoring, and control for wireless.

Authors: Terrence Blevins, Deji Chen, Mark Nixon, and Willy Wojsznis
Copyright: 2015
Length: 256 pages

You can read more about this book here.

Boiler Control Systems Engineering, Second Edition
Courtesy of ISA

If you work with boilers, then this book will clue you in on the engineering details of their control systems. There are really nice control strategies in a boiler; it’s fascinating! You can also learn more about tuning, valve sizing, transmitters, and so on.

Author: G. F. (Jerry) Gilman
Copyright: 2010
Length: 198 pages

You can read more about this book here.

Calibration: A Technician’s Guide
Courtesy of ISA

This guide is a tidy reference for questions about calibration. It explains core and advanced topics and provides practical examples to teach you how to apply these concepts in the real world.

Author: Mike Cable

You can read more about this book here.

Start-up: A Technician’s Guide, Second Edition
Courtesy of ISA

The start-up is one of the most critical parts of a project. I participated in many startups throughout Brazil, and you need to be ready for troubleshooting, basic testing, and so on. This guide has all those topics, plus testing of safety systems, wet and dry runs, control loops, and more.

Author: Diane R. Barkin

You can read more about this book here.

Troubleshooting: A Technician’s Guide, Second Edition
Courtesy of ISA

I don’t need to tell you that troubleshooting is part of a technician’s life, do I? Sometimes we struggle to fix a problem because we don’t think in a logical way, from the basic requirements of the process to advanced possible causes of the problem. This guide talks about common failures, functional failures, systematic failures, and more.

Author: William L. Mostia, Jr.

You can read more about this book here.


Visaya is building a digital knowledge base and giving a new voice to this industry. However, books are an essential part of the learning process. Even today, we turn to references written by experts for help with our application problems. So this list has strong books that cover the basics in the automation world.

Related tags: automation Automation books Books Calibration Process Automation Process instrumentation startup troubleshooting wireless
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