Closing The Loop With Information

How do you integrate an acquired company into its new home?

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How do you turn a company around that has been heading in a negative direction? As I write this, we're toward the end of the fall "conference season." I have attended both the Emerson Global Users Exchange held Sept. 27-Oct. 1 in San Antonio and the Invensys Operations Management OpsManage'10 held Oct. 18-21 in Orlando.

John Berra, recently retired chief executive officer of Emerson Process Management, gave me some time to share his retrospective of 40 years in the industry (see www.automationworld.com/feature-7838). One thing I was deeply curious to learn was how he was able to build Emerson Process through many acquisitions and mold it into a single, focused entity. Berra talked about building teams composed of people from each company. The teams had a mission and a deadline. They were provided information. Team members also were instructed that there were no victors and vanquished in the room. The company was acquired because it was valuable, and the people were valuable.

The story of Invensys Operations Management (IOM) is not so straightforward. It took somewhat of a detour in 2007-2009. Sudipta Bhattacharya was appointed president and chief executive officer of a newly formed Invensys Operations Management in May 2009 and was charged with pulling together a number of Invensys divisions, including Avantis, Eurotherm, Foxboro, SimSci-Esscor, Triconex and Wonderware. When I had a chance to talk with him in July 2009 and again in October that year, it was apparent that top on his agenda was to start putting together teams. He had to assemble a senior management team, followed by teams at the director level. By October of that year, many teams were in place, and the mood at IOM was greatly enhanced from 2008.

When we talked again this year, teamwork was again a central focus. I also had the opportunity to talk to many others working on the turnaround. Executives went out and brought together talented individuals from the variety of divisions and put them on teams to integrate and advance the different functions. During the year, there was perhaps even less than normal attrition at the senior levels. They all were focused on the core strategic direction of the company, which means they all had access to important information necessary to maintain direction.

Closing the profit loop

"Closing the profit loop" popped up in many conversations at OpsManage'10 this year. The idea is that automation and control companies have been helping plants close the process loop for many years. What plant managers, division managers and others need is a way to translate plant efficiency into profits. To do that, they need information—near real-time information from the plant, including costs such as energy. This is the new frontier in automation.

I assigned myself the task this month of writing on a category dubbed Enterprise Asset Management (see www.automationworld.com/feature-7834). The usual view of EAM holds it to be a mature, stodgy market segment. It's related to maintenance—fixing things that are broken. If you widen your horizon, however, and look more broadly at assets and return, as in Return on Net Assets, then things get interesting and exciting. Especially if the importance of information is considered. The topic goes beyond scheduling maintenance to taking a holistic view of the plant. Maintenance, operations, engineering all work together to maximize returns in many ways. Proactive maintenance reduces downtime. Information feedback improves operations efficiency and throughput. New engineering tools get projects done more quickly with fewer bugs, and also supply information to the other areas. Broaden your thinking and see how you can close your profit loop.

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