From a meager beginning six years ago with 45 attendees (aside from company employees), Yokogawa’s Users Conference grew to about 220 attendees last year, then exploded to about 800 for this year’s event, held Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in Houston. The growth can be attributed to many factors. Surely the jump reflects both the hard work of the North American management team led by David Johnson, as well as the market growth that is happening. Another factor is likely the Technology Fair brought here from Tokyo that was the centerpiece of the company’s 90th Anniversary Party last year. The location was also good, allowing many local customers and prospects easier travel.
The first clue that the company’s theme for the event was to emphasize its innovation was the futures exhibit at the Technology Fair. This was reinforced by Chief Executive Officer Isao Uchida’s keynote and the company’s emphasis on research and development spending. Yokogawa is currently spending 9.3 percent of sales on R&D. This ranks it 8th among Japanese companies in Japan. Its total amount of spending ranks 56th in Japan. In an exclusive interview with Automation World at the conference, Uchida and his management team further reinforced the focus on innovation.
Some of the future technologies under development in Yokogawa labs around the world include instrumentation in Internet Protocol (IP), network security and IP version 6, 10 gigabit and 40 gigabit optical communication modules, optical packet switching, chemical microreactors, microelectrical mechanical systems (MEMS) and a gene diagnostics-based personalized medicine technology.
Uchida made headlines almost two years ago with his challenge that Yokogawa would become the number one process automation company by 2010. He told Automation World that the company is on target toward that goal. In order to achieve the target, Yokogawa must show substantial growth outside its home base of Japan—where it has dominant market share. Orders in the first half of fiscal 2006 are 61 percent greater than those of the first half of 2005, indicating progress toward the goal.
Key market areas targeted during the conference were downstream oil and gas and sub-sea operations. Shuzou Kaihori, senior vice president and director of the industrial automation business, indicated that these areas have not seen significant automation, but companies now need to improve recovery methods and see automation as the way to do it.