Report From the Forum

In terms of sheer U.S. automation industry executive power, the ARC Forum held early each year in Orlando is becoming hard to beat. The list attending this year’s Feb. 13-15 event—hosted by ARC Advisory Group Inc. (www.arcweb.com), Dedham, Mass.—read like a “Who’s Who” of top level officers from the major, and even not-so-major, automation vendors serving the North American market.

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Many of the executives took the stage for scheduled presentations and panel sessions during the Forum. But most also broke out time to host or attend their own company events, and to go one-on-one with some of the many trade press editors in attendance.

Automation World Editor in Chief Gary Mintchell was in the thick of the action at this year’s ARC Forum, attending multiple sponsored events and conducting numerous one-on-ones with the C-level types in attendence. Following is his report.

Coming out

Emerson Process Management (www.emersonprocess.com) hosted a media and end-user breakfast Tuesday morning, the first day of the Forum. This was the public debut of Peter Zornio as Emerson’s new chief strategic officer. The “price of admission” for media and customers at the breakfast was a question. So John Berra, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Austin, Texas-based company, sat with Zornio on stools on the stage, without PowerPoints, and answered the questions and other live ones in an informal and bantering session that was actually highly informative.

Zornio led off by saying his move from Honeywell to Emerson was prompted simply his view that this was an opportunity to make a difference in the industry. Berra said that this was not an exit strategy for him. Responding to a question about wireless, Berra noted that the true value is with asset management. Addressing a question about the aging workforce, Zornio suggested upgrading processes and work practices to capture knowledge, giving aging workers an opportunity to stay around on a consulting basis, and working on the outside to attract new people into engineering.

Berra noted that most baby boomers are not really ready to quit, but that we all need to work with universities to get them to teach systems. Companies should also have structured personal development planning. When asked about justifying automation projects, Berra suggested eating lunch with finance people more often so that you know them and what they are looking for. The most important technology right now—predictive information on equipment asset management.

In a private interview, Schneider Electric North American President Dave Petratis and Vice President for Automation and Control Andy Gravitt touted the success of the Palatine, Ill.,
company’s centers of competence and emphasis on original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). They also discussed an initiative by which Schneider (www.us.schneider-electric.com/us
) took 200 company leaders to Mississippi to help victims rebuild following Hurricane Katrina.

Invensys Process Systems’ new President and CEO Paulett Eberhart, in an interview with Automation World, acknowledged her degree and experience in accounting and finance, but she stressed her sales and marketing experience with computer services company EDS as the important qualifications for her position at Invensys (www.foxboro.com), based in Foxboro, Mass. She said that a total focus on the customer is essential. That’s important for everyone, from the receptionist who first greets a customer to everyone else, Eberhart observed. “Customers ask, ‘Is this the kind of company that I want to do business with?’ I want that answer to be yes.” As far as what else to expect from her leadership, she placed importance on people development—finding, training and retaining the right people.

Adding PLM

Aubert Martin, president and CEO of Siemens Energy & Automation (www.sea.siemans.com), Alphareta, Ga., and Raj Batra, newly appointed vice president and general manager of the automation division, discussed the value that its centers of competency brings to customers. Referring to the recently announced acquisition of Plano, Texas-based UGS, Martin commented that the strategic value to Siemens was in the product lifecycle management and product design management portions from the Tecnomatix part of the company. Batra noted that Siemens’ growth in the North American automotive market was partly due to the center of competency and partly due to the auto manufacturers’ drive toward lean and agile manufacturing. His push as the new head of the division is to get the word out about all the Siemens products and benefits.

The Automation World interview with Yokogawa (www.yokogawa.com) this year was with Shuzo Kaihori. He will become president of the Japan-based company on April 1. He is currently vice president of the Industrial Automation Business. In assuming his new role, Kaihori commented that his challenge will be to execute the plan initiated by Isao Uchida, who remains with the company as chairman. Speaking of technology, Kaihori sees fiber optic networking as a key communications backbone due to its speed and resistance to electrical noise. As customers place greater importance on asset management, Yokogawa must place greater emphasis on service and applications support in the future, Kaihori said.

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