“Times are tough. Automation shouldn’t be.” That was one tag-line message delivered by executives of process controls vendor Emerson Process Management (www.emersonprocess.com), Austin, Texas, at the company’s 2010 Emerson Global Users Exchange Sept. 27-Oct. 1 in San Antonio.
“Today, automation users face twin challenges,” said Emerson Process Management Business Leader Steve Sonnenberg. “The task of building and running a safe, efficient operation is more complex than ever. At the same time, many of the experienced workers needed to deal with that complexity are nearing retirement or simply not available. Emerson understands these challenges and is investing not only to make our products easier to use, but also to make customers’ jobs easier to do.”
Throughout the course of the five-day event attended by more than 2,300, including customers and others, the company emphasized a variety of products and innovations designed to “help customers conquer complexity by reducing barriers to productivity.” The list included the company’s four-year-old Smart Wireless product line, as well as recent “ease-of-use” product innovations that have grown out of the company’s “Human Centered Design” initiative. Also at the Exchange, Emerson introduced new the AMS Suite: Asset Performance Management software designed to help customers cut through complexity to enable smarter business decision making.
Worst is over
During his opening-day keynote presentation, Sonnenberg noted that the economic downturn has made the past two to three years a very difficult time, both for Emerson and for its customers. But Emerson believes that “we have seen the worst of it,” he declared. “In fact, I’m quite optimistic about the future.” Emerson Process Management has seen a steady improvement in orders through its fiscal year 2010, Sonnenberg said. “It is our belief that our orders rate will return in 2011 to the peak levels we enjoyed in 2008.”
Sonnenberg also assured the keynote audience that even through the recession, the company continued to make investments that will enable it to better serve its customers as the manufacturing economy rebounds. Emerson increased research and development spending by 4 percent in 2009 and by 8 percent in 2010, for example, even though sales were slightly down in both years, he said. Emerson also completed several acquisitions designed to broaden and enhance its product line during 2009, Sonnenberg added.
On the product front, Emerson executives emphasized the variety of ways in which its automation technology offerings are designed to help customers overcome complexity. One example is the enhanced AMS Suite software introduced at the Exchange. This product follows Emerson’s multi-faceted partnership in October last year with Meridium Inc. (www.meridium.com), a Roanoke, Va.-based provider of asset performance management solutions. The link-up covers product development and integration, business development, and licensing, Emerson said. Through the partnership, the two companies have jointly developed AMS Suite: Asset Performance Management, based on the Meridium APM Framework.
By combining predictive intelligence with asset reliability information and decision-support tools, the new APM software can help managers analyze predictive data over time, combine it with other business information, highlight areas for attention and direct action where it’s needed to maintain or improve performance, the company said. “Many plants have invested in predictive intelligence and asset management to improve their operations, often with significant, quantified results,” noted Stuart Harris, vice president and general manager of Emerson’s Asset Optimization business. “But how to manage plant assets to get to the next level of business performance? That’s the question we’re helping them answer,” he said, with the new APM software.
Human Centered Design
At last year’s Exchange, Emerson unveiled its Human Centered Design (HCD) initiative, an ongoing, multi-year effort aimed at making products easier to use by focusing on user needs and requirements. Initial fruits of that work were introduced in 2009, including easier-to-use AMS Device Dashboards and the DeltaV S Series Electronic Marshalling capability, which greatly simplifies engineering and accommodates last minute changes. Various customer presentations at this year’s Exchange confirmed that the new technology is fulfilling its promise. And Emerson also moved to take the technology further at this year’s event, inviting customers to a “Usability Experience” area on the Exchange exhibit floor, where they were able provide input and ideas for future Emerson products while working with the company’s HCD specialists.
Automation complexity is also being reduced through the growing acceptance and use of the company’s Smart Wireless line of wireless networking products introduced in 2006, the company said. Smart Wireless, which is based on the WirelessHart standard, can help reduce complexity by adding “eyes and ears” in the process so that maintenance and operations can be more effective. And today, it is also moving beyond wireless monitoring applications to also take on tough control problems, executives added.
“The wireless adoption rate is accelerating as users gain confidence and find new ways to put the technology to work,” said Bob Karschnia, vice president of wireless for Emerson Process Management. “They started by using wireless to solve challenging measurement problems where traditional wired technology was too difficult or expensive, then expanded its use to mainstream monitoring applications,” he observed. “Now, we’re seeing a similar pattern as our customers extend the benefits of wireless to challenging control applications.”
Emerson Process Management