This year’s Emerson Global Users Exchange was held Oct. 24-28 in Nashville, TN. Attendance, which had seen drop-offs in previous years due to the sluggish economy, came surging back this year, with record-setting attendance of more than 2,800.
The event theme, “Exchanging Ideas. Creating Solutions,” was supported by more than 350 technical presentations, including workshops, short courses, technology forums, product roundups, Emerson educational courses, meet-the-experts sessions and technical exhibits.
On opening day Steve Sonnenberg, president of Emerson Process Management and executive vice president of Emerson, spoke to the assembled group. He began on an optimistic note, announcing that in fiscal 2011, just ended, revenues had rebounded from last year’s $5.3 billion to $7.3 billion. The company continues to invest in people, he went on, in the last fiscal year adding 4,000 employees: 1,000 in India, 650 in Europe, 1,800 in the Asia/Pacific region, 350 in Latin America, 200 in the Middle East and Africa and more than 1,000 in North America. And there are still unfilled positions, he added, because it has become so difficult to find qualified people.
The company has continued to make investments, Sonnenberg went on, in manufacturing facilities and, in an effort to increase its local presence, has added more regional service centers in Minneapolis, Houston and Dallas, as well as purchasing toxic and combustible gas detection, flame detectors, and specialized safety and security products manufacturer Net Safety Monitoring, Inc.
Not mentioned by Sonnenberg was a plan to invest $30 million to build a new world engineering and manufacturing headquarters in Houston for the Valve Automation business. This will include the development of a 205,000-square-foot facility, with construction beginning in early 2012.
The addition of more local facilities to improve response time, Sonnenberg continued, is part of Emerson’s efforts, in response to customer feedback, to become more of a “listening organization.” A big part of this, he added, is to focus in human-centered design and to increase trust in all areas.
In support of the theme of the event, Emerson also inaugurated an online community—essentially an online version of the Exchange—called Exchange 365. Jim Cahill, head of the company’s Social Media effort and Emerson Process Experts blogger, and Mike Tongwarin, Micro Motion’s online marketing manager, explained that the idea for the community was that, while the Exchange event is very useful and leads to much idea sharing and cross-fertilization, it goes on for only five days a year. The 365 community, which was modeled on a community set up for Micro Motion users, allows the conversation to continue throughout the year. It’s designed to help foster peer-to-peer guidance and knowledge exchange, to “create closer connections between Emerson, its customers, prospective customers, local business partners and Emerson folks;” to “improve listening channels for product and service ideas and plans.”
The comprehensive technical program included one track with 21 sessions devoted entirely to valves. One particularly interesting presentation, “Managing Control Valves at a Refinery Turn Around,” described what was involved in making sure that all valve work could be accomplished during a 34-day refinery maintenance outage—an opportunity that comes along only every three to five years.
Another session of interest to those working with valves was “Control Valves—How Improved Performance Reduces Variability and Increases Throughput.” This session discussed the importance of proper sizing, selection and tuning of control valves, and gave an interesting example of a case in which a butterfly valve, originally intended for on/off service, was being used for throttling in a nuclear reactor cooling system—and worse, at only the bottom 10% of its range—and driven by a Scotch Yoke actuator with slack in its mechanism and a mislocated position sensor. As might be expected, control was poor and erratic. An interim solution that removed slack from the actuation system helped, but only temporarily; the presenter then discussed the proper way to select and apply control vales in such a situation.
A session of interest to anyone in industry, not just valve people, was entitled “The Death of Quality and the Manufacturing Abyss.” Using examples from the chemical industry, it started with the premise that industry in general, and the chemical industry in particular, is polarizing, with large, integrated producers of commoditized products at one extreme and producers for whom it is not so much the physical product that is being sold as capability, or the effect or solution that it offers to the customer, at the other—what the presenters termed Agile Bespoke Solutions. They cited as an example (from another field) of what this means: Airlines, they said, do not buy jet engines, they buy pounds of thrust per hour, and the engine manufacturers actually own the engines. They then discussed paint manufacturing, which has bifurcated into two business models: Companies that internally produce and supply bulk paints at the lowest possible cost and those that externally sell “color solutions” via outsourced manufacturing (pigment mixing) remotely at places like Home Depot, as illustrated by the experience of global paints and coatings company AkzoNobel. This has necessitated a rather profound change in the way automation is viewed.
The technology exhibits area had displays from all of the major parts of Emerson Process Management, plus cooperating companies. Here’s a rundown on some of the newer products on display.
The Valve Automation folks showed a range of existing products. Regulation had one interesting product for gas pipeline shutoff that uses pressure from the gas pipeline to charge a hydraulic accumulator; this provides quick, low-energy shutoff. It combines technology from Shafer and Battis BHH and the Shafer SH series.
TopWorx showed its T Series, which was redesigned in April of this year. It is for those who need a compact-size unit with IECEx, ATEX and CSA certifications.
Many versions of the DVC6200 digital valve controller (which was introduced 18 months ago) were on display; one feature common to all was the non-contact valve position sensor that uses Hall sensors, circled in the photo.
Among Emerson partners, Exlar showed its EL100 explosion-proof electric linear actuator with multinational approvals that was introduced in
April of this year.
Doing it twice in 2012
Next year the Emerson Exchange will become international; the U.S. event will be from Oct. 8 -12, in Anaheim, CA, while May 29-31 will see the inauguration of a European edition in Düsseldorf, Germany.