- November 07, 2011
Automation.com, November 2011
By Bill Lydon, Editor
Discussion of the industry issues and trends with Steve Sonnenberg, Emerson Process Management's Executive Vice President, and Peter Zornio, Chief Strategic Officer. Topics include Emerson's energy initiative, the economy, PLC/DCS debate, disposable automation, and more.
By Bill Lydon, Editor
Interview with Steve Sonnenberg, Executive Vice President & Peter Zornio, Chief Strategic Officer
I had the opportunity to discuss the industry issues and trends with Steve Sonnenberg, Executive Vice President, Emerson Process Management and Peter Zornio, Chief Strategic Officer. Steve Sonnenberg leads Emerson’s Process Management business since his appointment in October 2008. Peter Zornio became Chief Strategic Officer at Emerson Process Management in 2007 after over 20 years with Honeywell.
On October 24, 2011, Emerson announced their Smart Energy Initiative to help customers optimize industrial energy production and use. This global program is designed to combine industrial energy expertise with advanced energy management technologies to enable customers to leverage more renewable fuels, lower energy costs, and reduce emissions. The program will specifically focus on modernizing and improving the performance of powerhouses, the onsite utilities that provide steam and electricity to power industrial operations, while also improving how the manufacturing process consumes energy. Today, Emersion Process Management has 10 people in the United States and a few people overseas working on this program. Sonnenberg can easily see that group double in size over the next 12-18 months.
I asked Sonnenberg how Emerson Process Management views the economy based on their business prospects. Sonnenberg noted that, “It seems to be getting stronger if anything.” He remains cautiously optimistic, commenting that some of what you read in the papers is political. “All economic issues are political and all political issues are economic,” said Sonneberg. “It is hard to separate the two.”
He added that the shale gas opportunity in the United Stated, Argentina, China, and Poland could be a game changer and drive growth creating relatively low and stable natural gas prices supply. Emerson Process Management is involved in projects domestically and overseas. In addition, he noted that customers who a couple of years ago where shutting down chemical units that used petrochemicals as feedstock have converted to natural gas and are expanding operations.
Forty-five percent of Emerson Process business is from emerging markets.
We discussed the pursuit of the DCS business by PLC companies and how Emerson Process Management views these initiatives. Sonnenberg replied, “We do actually cover more of these functions.” He described how they have always had logic for motor control and other discrete functions. Sonnenberg went on to describe how they added integrated SIS, have always had RTUs with the remote solutions group, and have added integrated machinery protection and prediction.
Sonnenberg drew a large distinction between them and their competition, since Emersion offerings cover all the needs for process companies including instruments and valves. “We provide an integration of all the functions in a holistic manner,” said Sonnenberg. He noted that compared to PLCs which are, “cobbled together set of controls, engineering and human interfaces”, Emerson Process Management pulls everything together with a complete integrated system. Sonnenberg clarified, “Integrated by design rather than integrated project by project where we bring a lot of true value to the customer.”
Peter Zornio added that PLC vendors seem to think they are ready for this market if they meet a checklist of products for process but they are deficient in the integration of software and support for process project implementation.
We then discussed disposable equipment and disposable automation. Emerson Process Management is involved and has some products coming out for these applications. Peter Zornio commented that this is a debate of plastic and steel products and thinks there will be both going forward. The plastic is great for the early stage clinical, trials and pilot plants. When it gets to a production level he thinks they will use non-disposable steel.
For more on disposable automation, refer to: Pharmaceutical Automation Roundtable (PAR) - Part 5 - Automation Reinvestment & Disposable Technology.
IT and Automation
I asked about conflicts with IT in many companies taking on a greater role in industrial automation. Sonnenberg commented that there seems to be collaboration between IT and automation with both groups involved in projects. Zornio noted this is in contrast to the past where there was a great deal of conflict.
Sonnenberg talked about the large growth in wireless, specifically WirelessHART which is an IEC standard. “Customers are looking at what is delivering value,” said Sonnenberg. He noted that the approximately 1,000 installed sites are coming back to buy more WirelessHART devices now that they have experience.
I asked about the Foundation Fieldbus demand. Sonnenberg noted that refining is still a strong user and emerging markets are embracing Foundation Fieldbus for large projects.
I asked if they are going to be moving to IPv6 and Pete Zornio commented, “We are definitely going to be implementing IPv6 and we see a way to do some better things with IPv6 such as distributed networking across multiple sites which is in big demand in the oil and gas industry as they consolidate into integrated operations centers…” He noted this is not a big deal today but they will be talking advantage of it in the future.
Note: More information on IPv6.
Thoughts & Observations
Overall Emerson Process Management is doing very well. This is indicative of the recent successful 2011 Emerson Exchange Conference and its record attendance. There was a high level of energy and enthusiasm at the conference.
A number of companies are pursuing opportunities to help save energy for clients. Most have created software dashboards and have people to do energy site surveys, which lead to recommendations. Emerson is doing these things plus some serious engineering solutions.
Three items are worth noting here:
- “True BTU” technology, a patent-pending innovation for calculating the actual BTU values of fuel sources, which makes reliable energy production predictable and repeatable.
- Adaptive combustion control that utilizes the TrueBTU calculation to optimize combustion processes regardless of input fuel type. With wider use of multiple fuel sources and alternative energy within plants this is a significant development.
- Rosemount introduced the WirelessHART 708 Wireless Acoustic Transmitter that detect leaks in steam traps and pressure relief valves.
This interview reinforces comments by others that Foundation Fieldbus is being embraced by emerging markets. There may be a rebirth for this technology.
Let me know what types of questions I should be asking automation industry executives.
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