Yokogawa rolls out plan for global leadership

Yokogawa recently marked its 90th anniversary by laying out plans for an aggressive growth trajectory. Here's Publisher and VP of Content, Keith Larson's take on the Tech Innovation Fair held in Japan.

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By Keith Larson, Group Publisher & VP of Content

IN LATE October, more than 7,000 customers and company faithful descended on Tokyo’s Century Hyatt hotel to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the formation of Yokogawa Electric Corp. In addition to experiencing the full breadth of process control and instrumentation offerings familiar to markets outside of Japan, those who attended the company’s Technology Innovation Fair got a rare look inside the research efforts of this industrial automation leader that still plows a generous 8% of annual revenue into new product development.

From a con-focal scanner that provides real-time, three-dimensional imaging of live cell cultures, to high-speed systems for testing 160-Gps fiber-optic switches, the Western visitor emerged from the crowded conference facility imbued with a new-found respect for this often “quiet” company. Other gee-whiz technology developments on display included a medical magnetoencephalograph for observing neuron activity via changes in magnetic fields, chemical micro-reactors and gene diagnostic systems.

  
 

More than 7,000 customers and company faithful descended on Tokyo’s Century Hyatt hotel to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the formation of Yokogawa.

Closer to the industrial automation home front were wireless sensors based on Zigbee technology, as well as version six Internet protocol (IPv6) chipsets designed to be more secure and easily configurable than today’s version four. Also previewed for release in mid-2006 was FieldMate, a PC-based software package designed to manage fieldbus engineering and maintenance functions using both FDT and DD technologies.

But the event wasn’t just about new technology—key, long-time customers took the opportunity to congratulate Yokogawa on its partnership culture and unique dedication to long-term business relationships.

Simon Lam, CEO of CSPS, a petrochemicals joint venture between China’s National Offshore Oil Corp. and Shell, commented in a press conference presentation to 100-plus key customers and international journalists on his company’s experience and rationale for selecting Yokogawa as the main automation contractor (MAC) for its new $4.3 billion Nanhai petrochemicals complex on schedule to start-up by year end. The facility is among China’s largest joint ventures, and includes some 16,000 Foundation Fieldbus devices, three control rooms, 60,000 points of I/O, and site-wide integration with SAP. Safeguarding systems, fire and gas system, and operator training simulator were also elements of the full automation solution managed by Yokogawa together with a cadre of six global engineering firms.

“How does one choose a MAC vendor for not just a single plant but for an entire complex?” asked Lam. “We looked for reputation, for technical reliability. Not for ideas, but for trusted technology.

  

Yokogawa president and CEO, Isao Uchida

 

“In the end,” Lam added, “people made the difference—people who are flexible, responsive to your needs.” Lam cited specific examples of late configuration information that was handled with aplomb by Yokogawa, never impacting projects costs or schedule.

Before being selected for Nanhai, the tone of the relationship had already been set by Yokogawa’s commitment to seeing other projects through, even when times got tough, Lam explained. For example on a complex oil movements project that had been abandoned by two other vendors. “Only Yokogawa stepped up,” Lam said, “not many companies are prepared to do that.”

The words of Chicago architect Daniel Burnham came to mind when Isao Uchida, Yokogawa president and CEO, took the stage to reiterate his goal of outpacing global industry growth over the coming five years “to become the number one industrial automation supplier by 2010.”

No small plans indeed.

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