Emerson's Global User Group Exchange is a slick informative affair, one of the highlights of the annual automation calendar. This year saw over three thousand people gather at the Dallas Gaylord Texan resort for a jam packed week of technology, networking and socialising in the land of the ten gallon hat.
Emerson Process Management president, Steve Sonnenberg, delivered an opening keynote with the emphasis very much on the Emerson vision of becoming its customers’ most trusted advisor. What always impresses about Emerson is how passionate everyone is about the automation business. It’s an attitude that permeates all levels of the organisation resonating well with the four cornerstones that anchor the foundation of company strategy:
1. Connect to customers. “We deepen the connection through our industry expertise and problem-solving capabilities,” Sonnenberg explained. “If we are known only for our technology then we are not conveying the full value of our organisation to customers.”
2. Technology innovation. While new technology is not the end-game, it has a very important role to play if you are in the business of solving customer-related problems in the fast-paced world of modern manufacturing. Emerson’s investment here is very much driven by human centric design based on the feedback from customers.
3. Lifecycle services. Emerson is investing aggressively in regional centres of expertise. These are the engine room that will drive company growth in a world where skilled resources are becoming a very scarce commodity. Currently, some 400 of these facilities are in place around the world.
4. Perfect execution. The lessons learned from last year’s supply chain disruptions have forged a lean, mean, problem crunching machine. The supply chain risk mitigation strategies that were explained at the 2012 event are paying handsome dividends and Sonnenberg says that today the company is capable of delivering against emergency orders in lead times of less than one day.
While it is understandable that technology is not the Emerson end-game, there were some formidable examples of world-class innovation on display in the exhibition area. (For the complete list of new technologies unveiled this year, see the article ‘Heads-up from Emerson Global Users Exchange 2013’ published recently on our website http://www.instrumentation.co.za/47090n.)
Particularly impressive is the new Micro Motion range of Coriolis mass flowmeters incorporating density measurement. The accuracy of the range is impressive, but even more so because this now extends to cover low flow rates as well. Some of the features illustrate the human centred design approach beautifully; the one that struck me was the self-monitoring calibration check facility. These meters are not only accurate to two or three decimal places, but they check their own calibration online and without any disruption to the process.
Perhaps though, the most enlightening idea to emerge this year was Sonnenberg’s forecast that the market for sensors is set to double over the next 10 years from its current annual $16 billion. We are moving into an era of pervasive sensing where smart transmitters will move from the factory floor all the way up the value chain to provide the actionable information that drives business decision making during the latter part of this decade.
A prime example of this is the Incus ultrasonic wide-area gas monitoring and detection solution. This futuristic looking device utilises four acoustic sensors to monitor an area for the ultrasound generated from the release of pressurised gas. The Incus detects gas leaks as they begin and before any potentially deadly build-up has a chance to occur.
The Press were given a preview of this power of pervasive sensing during a walk around of the technology exhibition. The future is called iOps (intelligent operations) and Emerson has plans to open its first facility in January next year. Essentially, the operator has a set of interactive dashboard screens that show everything that is happening on the plant. Then, for instance, if Incus detects something that sounds like the beginning of a gas leak, the operator can take appropriate action before any complications arise. Alternatively, if the vibration level on a pump goes out of limits, said operator can contact an Emerson expert via the video conferencing facilities. The expert, can access the same screens, analyse the problem and advise the best course of action. Once the necessary remedial action had been implemented, the pump’s vibration signature returns to normal and the expert is freed up to deal with the next problem.
These are wonderful examples of how pervasive sensing is going to drive manufacturing excellence in the future, and one of the key enablers is industrial wireless. Not surprising then that Emerson announced its two billionth hour of wireless network operation during this year’s event.
I hope you enjoy the November issue.
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