“You are our rudder. Without our rudder, we could not have the look of a leader.” With those words, John Berra, president of Emerson Process Management, opened the 2005 Emerson Global Users Exchange in Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 3.
The event, which is run by Emerson users, for Emerson users, broke previous attendance records, registering 1,800 attendees—more than 20 percent better than the 2004 event. Scott Pendegrass, control systems engineer at Lyondell Chemical Co., Houston, is chairman of the Users Exchange board of directors, and encouraged attendees to choose from the more than 300 presented papers to improve their skills and update knowledge.
Emerson Process Management, an Austin, Texas-based supplier of process automation systems and instrumentation, must be doing something right—or it may be doing many things right. Berra projected sales for fiscal year 2005, which ended on Sept. 30, to be almost $4.2 billion, based on a quarterly growth rate of nearly 14 percent over fiscal 2004, which is considerably higher than the industry average. Emerson backs up that top-line growth with a bottom-line that’s at an all-time high, and a sales order growth of 15 percent, according to Berra. “We are the most financially stable company in the process automation market,” he claimed. “We are as positive and optimistic about the future as we have ever been.”
Look of a leader
This year’s users event was organized under the theme, “The Look of a Leader.” Pendegrass, in his remarks to the assembled audience, discussed several key competencies of a good leader. “You must know your employees; you must know your business; you must know your competitors,” Pendegrass intoned. “And, you must know a good idea when you hear one. The most successful companies are those that implement process control to get the maximum value from the minimum investment.”
In a private interview, Berra shared his thoughts on leadership with Automation World. “A good leader must have a strong bias toward innovation, a curiosity about how to make things better, and must not be happy with the status quo,” said Berra. In addition to being an innovator, a good leader must also be a team player and be adept at presenting and selling his or her ideas. “It’s important for a leader in the automation industry to understand the dynamics of the business and create economic justification for decisions,” said Berra.
“Teamwork is so important,” continued Berra, “because it is hard today to do anything without lining up a group of people and getting them to march to the same beat.” Berra cited companies, such as BP, the London-based energy giant, which send teams of 12 to 15 people to events such as the Emerson Exchange. Why is the team approach so common? “Automation touches everything—the process, the chemistry, the mechanical and electrical systems. To make it stick, you need buy-in up front from management, and you need buy-in down the road when it comes to implementation,” explained Berra. “Ultimately, you need the company to work both across the organization chart, and up and down the organization.”
Berra cited the $150 million in research and development Emerson spent in 2005 as key to its position as an automation industry leader. “We had a record level of product introductions in 2005,” said Berra. These include continued investment in the company’s field instrumentation and valves, such as new Coriolis flowmeters, vortex meters and pressure and multivariable transmitters. PlantWeb, Emerson’s digital automation architecture, was extended with new introductions for safety instrumented systems (SIS) and machinery health monitoring.
As well, the company announced a new release of its asset management software, AMS 7.0, and the new Smart Remote Automation, for remote, wireless monitoring and diagnostics beyond the walls of the plant. Initial targeted applications include oil and gas fields. This PlantWeb extension brings predictive intelligence to remote assets, so problems can be fixed before catastrophic failure and without nuisance troubleshooting visits to remote locales.