Size, as they say, isn’t everything. Yet, with 1600 attendees from more than 50 countries and around 160 presentations over three days, Emerson’s 2018 Global Users Exchange conference and exhibition at The Hague’s World Forum centre ensured once again an offering with both scale and breadth.
Logistically there’s a challenge weaving big picture plenary sessions with more specific user-related information. One very welcome innovation this year has been the various business leader presentations tailored to individual media: an effective way to involve a larger number of key figures in their field and in more targeted fashion.
Plenary sessions however set the parameters for the event, albeit appropriately broad ones. Opening speaker was Mary Peterson, senior strategy & technology leader – automation for the Novartis’ biologics advanced process and manufacturing technologies group.
The virtual workplace was her theme as she outlined how a remote virtual project approach together with distributed DCS (DeltaV) architecture can address increases in project complexity, by leveraging “appropriate skills independent of personnel location”. Which enables testing without travel, allows later testing and hardware order placement and ensures adherence to global standards.
Back next to Emerson as Roel Van Doren, European president of Emerson Automation Solutions focused on the efficiency lessons to be learned from top performing organisations . With nearly two thirds of multi-billion projects failing either because they miss delivery deadlines or run substantially over budget, there is a need for widespread improvement.
Much of the remedy is straightforward, he reminded his audience: regular controls via audits and real-time asset health monitoring and smarter use of data analytics. The latter provided an entrée for flagging up the company’s enhancement to its Plantweb digital ecosystem – moving away from vendor-prescribed IIoT approaches to one that identifies specific business challenges and is scaleable.
An opportunity to eliminate the ‘4 Ds’: work that is distant, dangerous, dirty and dull
The DeltaV version 14 cyber security control system expands on the previous Plantweb manifestations and is intended to reduce engineering effort required to connect securely a company’s plant, operational and information systems – bridging the IT/OT divide. Additionally, the Insight app portfolio is intended to help simplify asset health monitoring and maintenance.
Associated with this is the opportunity to take critical actions speedily at various stages and to exceed the limits of humans’ inclination and physical presence; eliminating the time taken on what Van Doren characterises as the ‘4 Ds’: work that is distant, dangerous, dirty and dull.
Supply and maintenance is of course a driving theme, with the goal of progressing towards being able to offer a one-stop shop of integrated products and provision. Currently the company can service between 80-90% of a firm’s valve portfolio after acquisitions.
BASF’s Dirk Reinelt provided a timely reminder that competitive advantage derives not merely from handling data but from being able to ask the right questions of it – “only when we start to ask new questions can we find new answers”.
Likewise, where robotics is concerned, one needs to look beyond the usefulness of having machines better fulfil human activity and to consider too the scope for learning acceleration.
Unsurprisingly, both blockchain and 3D printing received an acknowledgement for their revolutionary influence upon the production of parts and supply chain delivery and transparency.
Emerson executive president Mike Train brought the focus back to the human factor – how to use the people you have or find others to effect cultural change in a business, encapsulating the challenge: “We’re staffed to run, not staffed to change”.
Five key factors he identified were: automated workflows; decision support (Big Data, analytics, collaborations); ‘mobility’ – an end to working in departmental silos; workforce upskilling; and the hardest task – change management.
Achieving top quartile performance is a key concern for businesses and has formed a significant part of Train’s strategic plan (since his appointment in 2016) to boost Emerson’s offer to customers. So his proved a welcome, if at times daunting, message.
There was a more audible restraint in the reception for Roberta Pacciani, manager C&P integrated gas and upstream technology and president of the women’s network at Shell Netherlands. Not on account of the force of her message about the need for the process sectors to compete and promote women in the workforce. Rather perhaps, the uncomfortable feeling that too many were not doing enough yet.
As Pacciani put it succinctly: “Gender balance is not a women’s issue; it is a business issue.”
One to ponder, if not too slowly.
Gender balance is not a women’s issue; it is a business issue
Roberta Pacciani, manager C&P integrated gas and upstream technology, Shell
Eric Saussaye, vice president Flow Controls Europe: “Globally it’s estimated that it costs [the process] industry around 5% of production from unplanned downtime costs annually. Around 80% of this could have been predicted.”
Emerson’s Valve Connected Service makes use of the company’s expertise and scale in dealing with a frequent cause of such downtime. While many companies lack the human and financial resources to address the issue singlehandedly, Emerson is packaging its service for major players such as SABIC’s Spanish operation and for the smallest firms for whom €100 per calendar month is feasible. European penetration remains far behind the more mature US market, yet it’s likely to replicate the pattern of North American growth.
It’s three years since Emerson acquired packaging gas leak detection analyzers and systems company Cascade. Cascade vice president analysers/solutions & lifecycle Andy Kemish and global product manager Amanda Gogates described how laser systems designed originally for aerosol leak detection have been adapted for applications in the food and drinks industry.
Traditional methods of product line analysis for food were slow and over dependent on manual intervention. Laser-based detection transformed a process that could take hours or days into one that is near-instant: real-time measurement with the capacity to measure 12 components using 1 analyser, suitable for cold/dry and hot/wet conditions and without need for calibration.
Derek Farr, vice president, final controls sales and services, offered a stark outline of why you need to factor in downtime as well as product cost. Put simply: buy cheap and you risk buying twice.
An estimated 60% of accident on plants occur because of downtime, says Farr, and top quartile performers have less than a third of the maintenance costs of those in the fourth quartile: “One runs to fail, the other predicts failure”.
An average plant can lose c$1 million in unplanned downtime a year, with 60% of costly fugitive emissions due to leaking valves. After compressors and pumps, valves account for the third highest spend in process plants. At Emerson client BASF 90% of valve fails are solved within two hours.
Yet, often, a fifth of the maintenance inventory in customer-owned assets are likely to be redundant. Addressing the downtime problem boosts availability, profitability and safety. The starting point is to realise that cost of equipment isn’t the only factor – you need to account for that crucial downtime cost.
Lastly, it may strike hardened engineers as a tad corny but the demonstration (see pic) of Emerson’s predictive and maintenance systems using role-playing actors in the Expo is a lesson in conveying the importance of process knowledge and careers. If we are serious about tackling the skills shortage and encouraging recruits, then this may be how to reach Generation Y.