Automation Professionals Give Best Benefit

In his last keynote as the Business Leader of Emerson Process Management, John Berra told the audience of over 2,600 “automation professionals have the most demanding high tech job, but no one else can deliver as significant results to business.”

Berra is leaving operating leadership with Emerson Process in good shape. Sales are up 18 percent through three quarters of this fiscal year. Orders are also up giving indication that next year should also be good. Along with this are the investment increase in research and development of about 12 percent and the addition of 1,200 salaried and 1,500 hourly employees. “PlantWeb with WirelessHart is delivering real business value.”

Continuing its recent emphasis of wireless, Emerson engineers have installed about 70 instruments around the Gaylord Hotel operating on WirelessHart. Said Berra, “I’m officially a fossil now. I’ve been fortunate in my life to have seen all the major changes in process control—pneumatic to analog to digital. Communications from analog to Hart to Foundation Fieldbus. The next big thing is wireless.” Berra recalled his first project start up with its myriad wires connecting all the instruments. Reflecting on his leadership role with Hart, Fieldbus Foundation and WirelessHart, Berra quipped, “My whole career has been about getting rid of wires.”

Unsheathing a Post slide rule recognized by many in the room, talked about the slide rule as an instrument that was used to build spacecraft and bridges. New technologies have come along to supplant that technology and do the job better and faster. Berra speculated about an executive meeting at Post years ago where they discussed how to make a better slide rule. Meanwhile at another location other engineers were developing the technology to put them out of business. It’s our job to innovate.


Get the most from the conference

Greg Stephens, Exchange Advisory Board chairman, welcomed the attendees and challenged them to make the most of the experience. As he discussed the conference theme that ideas become solutions, he noted that not all ideas are ideal solutions. Burlap boxer shorts never caught on, he said, but burlap is an ideal material for potato sacks. Just so, the many conference sessions and networking opportunities offer attendees lots of ideas for learning. The value of Exchange comes in quotes you take home with you, contacts you make, actions you conceive, answers to your questions, ideas for new projects and solutions to your problems.


Passing the keys

Berra introduced new Emerson Process Management Business Leader Steve Sonnenberg calling him someone he has complete confidence in, tossed him the keys to the business and exited the stage to a standing ovation.

Sonnenberg said many people have asked him about changes that he would make. “Why change something that works,” he answered. “We plan everything at Emerson, including management changes. The company values longevity and I’ll still have John around as a mentor.” Berra will continue with the company as Chairman and will work with customers, develop strategy and drive technical innovation.

Sonnenberg listed his four core values: provide quality products and services, continue to bring innovation, drive a sense of urgency and do things right. “I commit that I will use these values to drive my decisions,” he concluded.


Space stations

In the final keynote of the morning, NASA’s Jack Bacon gave the audience a whirlwind overview of the most complicated technical project in history: the International Space Station. Weighing some 400 tons, and of a size that wouldn’t fit in the conference ballroom in which some 2,500 attendees were hearing the presentation, the Space Station uses movable solar arrays the size of football end zones, Bacon pointed out.

Humans of many nationalities have now been living in space continuously for eight years, Bacon said. During that time, the Space Station project has produced numerous benefits, he noted. For example, challenges faced by the international team in dealing with water in space have led to technology that applies directly to problems of water purification in third-world countries such as Rwanda. Innumerable possibilities exist going forward; researchers believe that the weightlessness of space will one day yield the ability to make “foamed” steel, for example, which “will be stronger than any steel we can make on the ground,” Bacon said.

Bacon began his presentation by showing an image of Stonehenge, noting that humankind has been looking toward the stars for centuries to gain a better understanding of itself and its place in the universe. The same is true today, he said, as he concluded his remarks. “We’re making enormous progress now,” Bacon said. “We keep looking for answers out there. It’s nothing different than we have done for 5,000 years.”



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