Yokogawa Users Gather Despite Economy, Swine Flu

Attendance was down only slightly at the company’s annual North American users event, which included a look at the state of the company, upcoming products and an “innovation challenge.”

Perhaps the most significant thing about the Yokogawa Corp. of America (YCA, www.yokogawa.com/us) User Conference held May 19-21 in Houston was that it was held at all.

In the midst of hard times in manufacturing, lingering concern over the recent H1N1 “Swine” flu outbreak, and with corporate travel restrictions the norm, between 200 and 300 intrepid users and prospects ventured to the Intercontinental Hotel to learn more about the company's automation products and solutions. This number is lower than last year’s conference, but only by 60 or so.

David Johnson, president and chief executive officer, stated that YCA showed an uptick in revenue during the last six months of the fiscal year ending March 2009—admirable results for a company that has been a relatively small player in the United States (although Japan-based Yokogawa is large in a global sense). In other significant financial points elaborated by Johnson, about 75 percent of the parent’s revenues now come from outside Japan. YCA's revenues are now about 50/50 between products and systems.

Products on tour

The company's “VP Van” (a traveling exhibit, named for Yokogawa’s Vigilant Plant control platform) was labeled a success, with more than 3,500 people visiting it during its tour of the United States. Previously announced recent products that are showing promise are the Real-time Production Organizer workflow analysis application; tunable diode laser analyzer for emissions monitoring, among other uses; and an intelligent remote terminal unit, or RTU, that is finding acceptance in wellhead applications.

Brent Lilienthal, general manager of service in North America for Yokogawa, and Dennis Nash, president and chief executive officer of Control Station Inc., a Tolland, Conn., software, training and consulting company, are announcing a joint application for PID (proportional integral derivative) loop tuning. Built from Control Station's Loop Pro, csTuner will look like a Yokogawa CS3000 application. Through diagnosis of process data, csTuner is capable of improving the performance of business-critical production processes.

Nash told Automation World that the key differentiator of Loop Pro/csTuner is a patent-pending technology called Non-Steady State Modeling. This technology enables users to accurately model both transient and noisy process data.

In other keynote addresses, Terry Jones, founder and  former chief executive of Travelocity.com, the online travel site, challenged attendees on innovation—noting that it will be the driver to get companies out of the economic slump. Jones called innovation “fresh thinking that creates value.” He warned against the “Dopeler” Effect—the tendency of stupid ideas to sound smarter when they come at you rapidly," and the “Bozeone” Layer, where middle management stops bright ideas from getting implemented.

Youth movement

Jones called on attendees to pay attention to young people, who will be heavily recruited to fill process control positions in the near future. “Today’s graduates are tomorrow’s employees, and technology is central to their experience,” he said. Parts of Jones’ innovation culture includes experimentation, measurement, coaching people, allowing failure and keeping teams small.

Bruce Jensen, YCA director of product marketing, led customers through the product roadmap for the near future. Highlights include more power in the controller, enhanced alarm management, enhanced supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), especially for upstream applications, and a high-speed safety controller.

WirelessHart instrumentation was also high on the list with products expected by the first quarter of 2010. Concurrent to the announcement at YCA, parent company Yokogawa Electric Corp. posted news on its Web site announcing the company's support of the ISA100.11a Wireless Communication Standard. The release states that the company will develop a new field digital network platform “that will enhance productivity by eliminating the difficulties users currently face with incompatible wireless communication protocols and making possible the systematic integration of wired and wireless technologies.”

Yokogawa Corp. of America
www.yokogawa.com/us

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