Last updateThu, 22 Mar 2018 4pm


Ingenuity Rules at Emerson Exchange

Steve SonnenbergThe theme of this year’s Exchange was “Inspiring Ingenuity,” and ingenuity was definitely demonstrated in the hundreds of workshops, short courses and technology and industry forums held over the five days.

The event started off with an address by Steve Sonnenberg, executive vice president of Emerson and president of Emerson Process Management. He reminded the assemblage of more than 3,200 people what it was like to be a child, when the sky was the limit and we felt that everything was possible. He encouraged everyone to remember how it felt to let our imagination run free, and allow that spark to spur ingenuity.

Today’s Challenges

Sonnenberg pointed out three of the most pressing challenges for industry today. Because of the increasing size and complexity of projects today, project risk is one of the biggest concerns of end users. Another is reliability: how to eliminate or at least greatly reduce the number and duration of shutdowns. And finally, as has been discussed in many conferences over the last few years, the impending critical skills shortages resulting from a retiring workforce are set to affect all industries.

All of these issues were covered in the various workshops and courses during the Exchange, including the pressing matter of training Millennials to take over the work of the Baby Boomers, who are leaving the workforce at the rate of 10,000 per day!

An inspiring keynote speech was made by futurist and author Jack Uldrich who urged attendees to “Jump the Curve” in order to meet the challenges of a world that is changing at the speed of light. Uldrich shared 10 technologies that he says will change the world, including wearable technology that will make it possible to instantaneously share knowledge so that new people in the field will be able to repair a valve with the help of a mentor who is at a base far away, perhaps even in another country.

Nanotechnology, robotics, 3D printing, genomics, big data, renewable energy and collaborative consumption such as car sharing were also included in Uldrich’s list of exponentially developing technologies to which we must pay attention if we are to be competitive and succeed in the future. “The future will be ambiguous,” he said. “If you can see that, you can succeed. You must give yourself permission to read and reflect on how the world is changing.”

Ingenious Solutions

In one of the most memorable sessions of the event, Alex Gomez of the Brooklyn Navy Yard cogeneration plant described the incredible ingenuity employed to rebuild the facility after it was devastated by 13 feet of water when Super Storm Sandy struck the eastern seaboard in October 2012.

It was a herculean effort that required creative management and the wise use of technology to innovate solutions by a team of 7 contractors including a valve team from Emerson. At any one time, up to 120 personnel from all trades worked around the clock to get the plant back up and operating in a remarkable five weeks. During that time, approximately 70 valves were opened, inspected and repaired or replaced as required with all new instrumentation and accessories.

Wireless technology was also discussed in several of the presentations and was offered as a way to accurately automate valves and monitor processes with less cost and taking less time than using traditional wired controls. Research has been ongoing to determine the control implementation and results of wireless vs. wired throttling valves in column controls. More will be covered on this topic in a future edition of VALVE Magazine.


In addition to the engineering and technical topics, presenters shared project and time management tips and tools including one on the myth of multi-tasking. Overflow crowds attended the sessions entitled “Less is More” when presenter Barbara Hamilton urged those present to forget the idea that they could multi-task. “It’s a myth,” she said. “You can only do one thing at a time, and when you do that one thing, be present and mindful. You will accomplish much more, in a shorter period of time.” Hamilton admonished people to resist the urge to check phone and e-mail messages constantly, as this is one of the greatest impediments to productivity and a sense of personal and job satisfaction.

More management solutions were offered in the form of Emerson’s acquisition of Management Resources Group, Inc. (MRG), a management consulting firm experienced in improving reliability in industrial manufacturing. Through these consultants, Emerson can now advise global customers on enterprise-wide reliability management programs that connect the millions of data points collected in a plant, providing actionable information to trigger maintenance activities before equipment fails.

Lunch with a Punch

During a "Women in Innovation" Luncheon, Dr. Valerie Young addressed “The Imposter Syndrome.” A self-described "recovering impostor," Young defines imposter syndrome is a major psychological phenomenon that is extremely prevalent in the career world. She said that many women, even well-respected people like the late Maya Angelou and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, have felt they might someday be “found out” because they really aren’t as smart, talented or capable as they appear to be. “While both men and women can feel like imposters, women seem to suffer from this affliction more than men,” she said.

According to Young, women are more likely than men to agonize over tiny mistakes and blame themselves for failure, see even constructive criticism as evidence of their shortcomings and chalk up their accomplishments to luck rather than skill. “When they do succeed, they think 'Phew, I fooled 'em again.' Perpetually waiting to be "unmasked" doesn't just drain a woman's energy and confidence,” said Young. “It can make her more risk-averse and less self-promoting than her male peers, which can hurt her future success."

Tom RyanAnother luncheon entertainer was comedian Tom Ryan, who expressed concern about the impending skills shortage and pointed out that VALVE Magazine had raised the alarm in the summer 2014 issue. “You guys will know what’s happening, whether our infrastructure will survive,” he joked.”But I’ll be gone tonight, and I will spend the next 25 years worrying!”

Looking to the Future

VALVE Magazine will be sharing more information from this event through web features and articles in the print magazine over the next several months, so check back often for these and a variety of other topics of interest to the users and makers of valves, actuators and controls.

Kate Kunkel is senior editor of Valve Magazine. Reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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