Emerson User Group EMEA in Brussels, Belgium – 12th – 14th April 2016
“Seems to me that #EMrex is focusing not so much on new technologies, though important, but looking closer at how we do things.” our tweet on day one.
Brussels looked lovely on the morning that the Emerson User Group meeting opened. There was little to suggest the trauma that the city had faced just a few short weeks previously as delegates strolled through the sun-lit streets to the conference centre. The security however was markedly tighter as we entered the building however with strict adherence to the best security practices. However once inside the building things were as normal.
Speaking with the organisers it promised to be a bumper event, stretched as it was over three days examining all aspects of automation, experiences, applications and of course exciting new products and concepts. The attendance was slightly down on the last time in Stuttgart, some were reluctant to travel, others were unable to make it due to the inability of the severely damaged to adhere to a normal service. Those who attended were in part in broad agreement with the message penned by Emerson’s Travis Hesketh – Standing up for Brussels. Indeed the User Group very quickly confirmed after these terrible events that they were going ahead with #EMrex. At several of the social events at the periphery, like the evening reception for publishers and journalists the people who suffered were remembered.
The venue was a modern conference and the one hundred or so presentations and industry forums were stretched over about six floors including an exhibition floor and at the very top of the building was a cyber café and a wonderful panoramic hall with the breathtaking view (featured at the top of this page from a tweet by Emerson’s social media guru – Jim Cahill)
But on to the the meeting!
Peter Iles-Smith of GlaxoSmithKline opened proceedings as chair of the Users Exchange Board. He welcomed the over two thousand delegates from so many countries through out the EMEA who travelled for the event.
Steve Sonnenberg, President Emerson Process Management (pictured right) and Roel VanDoren, their President in Europe, in a joint presentation entitled “New Reality, New Opportunity” addressed the changes and challenges facing companies in the 21st Century. They did not talk about products or applications but on ways of doing things. Indeed during the presentation we tweeted: “Emerson’s approach – yes equipment, but more importantly perhaps is attitude or culture.”
Nobody does business the way they it was done even twenty years ago, when the internet was a baby and nobody imagined never mind thought possible social media platforms like twitter, yet in many cases industry is way behind in adapting to change. Possibilities are there which were inconceivable a short time ago and these need to be harnessed for the good of humanity.
Research into these possibilities, new technologies are leading to changes especially the importance of planning including all stakeholders at the earliest opportunity. This thinking is leading to an innovative technology and engineering-based approach for improved capital efficiency such as their Project Certainty approach which aims to tackle complexity by decoupling the dependencies suppliers have on each other, eliminating bottlenecks and allowing concurrent work streams. In a word it aims to transform capital investment and releasing the frightening amounts of money currently being lost in big and not so big projects.
And these figures are frightening. If the type of approach spoken of here is adopted savings of up to €400 Billion (yes BILLION) would be released to invest in, for instance, production, reliability, safety, energy, training, security and innovation.
So what is involved?
Xavier Marchant, (right), Emerson’s Vice President Process Systems and Solutions in Europe, gave dramatic examples of the possible savings in labour and materials. For instance the decision to use smart junction boxes in a large project could save both money and space (95% in control room space). Spare parts are another area where there is phenomenal waste. He quoted a spokesman from a International Energy and Chemical Company, “On our last construction project we overspent on maintenance spares to the tune of €50,000,000…we just wrote it off….because we did not have a robust spares analysis process.” Reduce the complexity by the involvement of stake holders at the start of planning for a project and allowing them to develop it side by side. One simple idea is to separate software from hardware in the development. The “old way” is to tie them together from the start whereas this way the software can be developed using virtual systems and then later on when the actual operation is seen to work in the virtual world (he called it virtual FAT – Factory Acceptance Test) it may be introduced to the real or concrete world – or “late binding” as he called it.
He quoted François Davin of Sanofi “Emerson’s Remote Virtual Office allowed us to collaborate with experts and resources from multiple sites to conduct our Factory Acceptance Test (FAT). The result was less travel and site disturbance to our operations. Also, more operators could participate remotely which improved the new automation system adoption.”
We were introduced to the concept of quartile performance and their site Top Quartile Performance is a exposé of how they view this as a concept and how it is influencing their thinking as a group.
Of course all these changes would be impossible without the availability and enthusiastic embracing of the so-called “new” technologies. Peter Zornio (right), Emerson’s irrepressible Chief Strategic Officer, gave us an insight into these and how the company is using these and its co-operative involvement with the pioneers in these , the Internet of Everything(CISCO), Industrial Internet (GE), Smart Planet (IBM) and The Internet of Things (Microsoft). These technologies, and others embryonic or not even conceived of are guiding the current and future development of technology used in the manufacturing and processing sectors.
Keynotes: The Emerson User Exchanges whether in the USA or EMEA always have exciting and inspirational keynote speakers each day. This event was no exception. Jack Uldrich, a futurist spoke about future-proofing business. The majority of businesses are not ready for what is happening in the real world or for the speed at which it is happening.
Another of these speakers Prof Jan Rotmans who spoke about change. He maintains that we are not living through an “era of change” as a “change of era!” Many of us are in the old era, our mobile phone is just that, we read newspapers, buy books in bookshops. Our kids live on their mobile phones, they are their liveline. We are “old-fashioned” our kids are “cool!” Change is disruptive and the old ways are totally unable to cope. The old top-down certainties are dissolving and the “common man” is taking charge, sometimes violently. Chaos is the name of the game.
Finally a veteran at EmrEX, David Beckman, brought all the thoughts and ideas of New Reality, New Opportunity together. In view of Rotmans’ talk earlier the title he chose was more than relevant as he introduced delegates to the “Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook.” Although he prepared us for worst case scenarios he described real opportunities for industrial automation.
Presentations. The various threads were divided into five headings or sectors, Business & Projects; Operate Safely, Securely and Legally; Process Optimisation; Maintenance & Reliabilitym and, Control System Applications & Migrations and were held through each of the days.
Forums: There were also Industry Forums with panels and general discussions on the various specialities e.g. Life Sciences or Refining & Petrochemicals. These were opportunities for participants to learn and exchange information and experiences with each other.
Training: There were also training sessions and other sessions (called Roadmaps) on Emerson products and possible future developments.
Solutions EXPO: Of course no event is complete without actually seeing product and EmrEX is no exception. The floor was divided under the same zone headings as the threads of presentations above. (See sketch on left).
There were several unique exhibits. One was the Operations Centre of the Future. This was an imaginative presentation of a plant with a H.A.L. like computer responding (or not) to commands or requests from the operatives. It featured a drone delivery of spare parts and a really effective alarm situation which featured a realistic vibration of the floor. Of course the real message is that though it is the future most of the technology used is possible today.
Of course the Project Certainty concept featured prominently in the Business & Projects area and we were show possible scenarios. They had also rather bravely set up a wall where delegates could post what they consider are the features that should be addressed in projects. This should help “to focus ruthlessly on what’s directly relevent to a company strategy.”
Of course there were actual instruments on display to examine and handle.
Notable was this industry first, the Rosemount X-well system, a wireless transmitter, accurately measuring process temperature without need for thermowell. Accurate process temperature measurement is possible without requiring any intrusions or penetrations into the process, allowing for quicker and easier installation along with simplified long-term maintenance. Users do not have to design, size or maintain thermowells. Wake Frequency Calculations are eliminated, as well as time spent determining material compatibility, the right insertion length and the necessary profile.
Also the new Emerson Wireless Pressure Gauge created quite buzz among delgates. Th“This new gauge design fundamentally will change how customers use pressure gauges by helping them make better business decisions!” It is another industry first. Does this signal the end of the Bourdon Tube?
Energy management is of course critical in all processes. It is effected not only by cost factors but also by legislation driven by concerns on pollution and global warming. Here Emerson demonstrated some prototypes of monitoring and control equipment not yet available. They emphasised savings on space occupied and of course ease of use by operatives.
Another very popular item was on the Maintenance & Reliability Zone. Here was an opportunity to experience the immersive training simulator. A goggle like apparatus was placed on the head and using a game-like hand piece the engineer is able to travel through a plant and see where various problems may be without any danger to him or her. It is a fascinating experience and one really feels that one is travelling through the plant rather than sitting or standing in a control room or office. In this picture we see Emerson’s Chief Blogger, Surface Dweller, Head of Social Media enter the virtual world for real! We can confirm that he returned to real reality afterwards.
Around the periphery of the EXPO were the booths of companies which compliment the Emerson offering – what they call their complementary and strategic partners.
There was also a section dedicated to history featuring milestones in science and automation over the years. It was a demonstration of change in the past. What will feature in future shows? The new opportunities taking advantage of the new realities of the past.
Always a major highlight of the Emerson User Group events is waht the call the “Networking Event.” This year was rather unique in that it was a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Magritte Museum. This was an unique opportunity to see the best of Belgian painters – creativity of a different type than that extolled during the day sessions. Artists such as the Brueghels, Rubens, Jordaens and Magritte were enjoyed during this evening. Food and beverages were served – Belgium is famous for its beers of course but it also has its own cuisine and of course it’s chocolate is to die for.
This years event, despite the unexpected difficulties, was on a par, indeed because of these difficulties had perhaps more user participation than previous ones. There were many exciting things to see, concepts to understands and friends with which to share experiences. And of course fun with a capital F.
Look at this and tell me people weren’t enjoying themselves! (Twitter pic @Julian_Annison)
Our unedited photos from the conferenceon the Read-out Facebook page.
Follow on twitter #EmrEX
The videos here give an impression of each day:
• We have written about our travelling experiences to and from Brussels in our personnel blog (Sa Bhaile: (“Home” in Irish). These were relatively smooth if labourious but there is indeed no comparison to the experiences of Nick Denbow of ProcessingTalk which he outlines on their blog: My worst week as an air traveller!
Previous EmrEX EMEA Events.
2014: Stuttgart: Revving up in Stuttgart!
2012: Duesseldorf: Automation returns to Düsseldorf!