2014 Process Automation Hall of Fame - Certifiably Famous

2014's Inductees Took Very Different Paths to Our Process Automation Hall of Fame

By Paul Studebaker

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At first glance, our two newest members—Dave Emerson and Paul Murrill—have little in common: One grew up near Boston, the other in the hinterlands of Mississippi; Emerson's career has centered on creating and promulgating standards, Murrill's on teaching and using process control principles in academia and business.

But they have several important things in common. Both have devoted their careers to furthering and improving the process control profession. Both were nominated and selected by the existing members of the Control Process Automation Hall of Fame, and as you'll see on the following pages, both present admirable examples of how one person can influence and inspire others to strive and excel in their chosen field.

Before reading on, please note that 2013 marked the passing of Hall of Fame members Ted Williams and Bud Keyes.

Connects Us by Consensus

This year's first inductee is the quintessential engineer, a quiet and avid technologist who made his way by carefully designing and implementing innovative applications of electronic controls. But the reasons his now-fellow Hall of Fame members gave for supporting Dave Emerson's nomination focus on his leadership in advancing standards critical to process automation, batch control, and the interoperation of business and automation systems.

Read Also "All the best brains go to the Hall of Fame"

"Dave is so quiet that his (huge) contributions to the manufacturing control field are too often overlooked," says Lynn Craig (inducted in 2003). "He may be a giant in the field, but he is too often invisible." Over the past 25 years, Emerson has had significant roles in defining and advancing several critical control and operational technologies, including:

  • A major role in the development of the pioneering EMC (later Nova-Tech) batch control product,
  • A key contributor to the ISA88 batch control standard,
  • A crucial role in the development of the ISA95 standard for the integration of enterprise and control systems, including several years as vice-chairman of the committee,
  • A central and primary role in the creation of a technical report on integrating ISA88 and ISA95,
  • A role as creator and leader of the World Batch Forum (WBF) XML Working Group that created the B2MML and BatchML schemas now supported by MESA,
  • A vital contributor in many facets of the World Batch Forum (WBF) organization (He was awarded WBF's prestigious Thomas G. Fisher award in recognition of outstanding leadership in the field of operation and control of manufacturing processes),
  • Current leader of the MESA XML Committee that maintains B2MML and BatchML,
  • Leader of the OPC Foundation's OPC Batch committee in the creation of the OPC Batch specification; served on the OPC UA committee; and currently serves on the Technical Advisory committee,
  • One of the principals of the MIMOSA Open O&M group,
  • A leading contributor to the ISA106 standards committee. "Along with me and Walt Boyes, he was instrumental in developing and proposing the new ISA106 Procedure Automation in Continuous Process Operations standard, of which he is now the editor," says Maurice Wilkins (2011).

"Dave has worked diligently and tirelessly to advance real-time automation and information management in these critical areas and has certainly demonstrated both leadership and success in improving technical solutions, standards and encouraging industry to move in a very positive direction," says Peter Martin (2013).

Emerson grew up in the Boston area, one of three children. When he told his father that he wanted to be an engineer, "He said he thought it would be impossible to find a job as an engineer, but still supported my decision," Emerson says. This was in 1972 as the space program and defense industries were experiencing a time of staff reductions. "When I entered the workforce later in the '70s, engineering employment was on the rise, and most new graduates had no problems finding a job."

Emerson was with Taylor in the late '70s and early '80s, "when computer control and DCSs were still very new in the industry," he says. "The systems business in Taylor, as with most control providers, was a side business that was growing and competing with the traditional instrumentation and panel-board business.

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This was a very interesting time, as many companies and individuals had their first experiences with computer-based control. I heard many stories about the early days of direct digital control (DDC) using IBM 360s, and personally got to experience the then-leading-edge technology of core memory. On a power failure, the computer maintained its memory and did not require a reboot on power recovery!"

After four years with Taylor, Emerson joined EMC Controls. "EMCC was a young start-up using leading-edge technology," he says. "All the employees were young and smart, and people were given experiences and opportunity at a younger age than at many of the more established competitors." The company went through a series of owners and at various times was known as Rexnord, Texas Instruments and GSE Systems.

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