His first eight years at EMCC were in the applications group. Memorable projects were automating the operation of a seawater treatment plant (STP) for ARCO on the North Slope of Alaska, and two projects for the U.S. Dept. of Energy at its Savannah River Plant, including the Defense Waste Processing Plant (DWPF). Both of these were large projects with complex automation that was used to start up, operate and shut down the plant equipment.
"As the lead engineer on the DWPF project, for two years I directed a team of 100 engineers from the customer, EMCC and contractors. During this project I learned a great deal about how to organize, manage and motivate teams, and how to use software technology to enable large teams to deliver high-quality and consistent automation software," Emerson says.
From 1988 to 1990, Emerson worked in the Netherlands on another large automation project in the plastics industry. "The experience of working overseas greatly broadened my perspective and raised my interest in global activities in our industry," he says.
Emerson then went from application engineering to product development. "The product development role is quite different than delivering a project for a single customer with a single set of requirements," he says. "I was responsible for the development of a new batch control package called FlexBatch, which was based on ISA88, the new batch control standard. My colleague Leo Charpentier and I worked with some great people at the Eastman Chemical Co. to develop the requirements. We called ourselves the ‘Cherry Hill Gang' after the site of one of our meetings in a rather dank hotel in New Jersey. The result of this work was fed into the ISA88 committee and into our product development team."
In 1997, Emerson moved from GSE Systems to Yokogawa's U.S. Development Center, which was just being started by Kimi Takahashi, as a systems architect. In 2008, he became the center's director. In between, he helped develop Exaquantum/Batch, a new batch historian that worked with Yokogawa's Exaquantum historian and its DCS batch system, CS 3000. Exaquantum/Batch was based on ISA88 and the then-new ISA95 standard, offering one of the first web user interfaces. He also became involved in the previously mentioned standards committees and industry groups, and in 2009, became director of Yokogawa's U.S. Development Center, where he "has shown true leadership in developing novel applications using new mobile technologies," says Wilkins.
Looking back, Emerson says he thinks his most important contribution is his work on BatchML and B2MML. "I came up with the idea for BatchML at a 1999 Microsoft Professional Developer Conference where XML was being introduced to their developers," Emerson says. "I quickly saw how this would be an ideal tool for creating a standard interoperability-based tool for the ISA88 and ISA95 standards. I created the XML Committee within WBF, and with the help of Dennis Brandl, created and released B2MML and BatchML." He received a Yokogawa Chairman's Technical Achievement award for this work.
In the future, "We need to make interoperability easier for owner/operators. There is still a great deal of wasted effort during CAPEX and OPEX projects due to the difficulty in moving data between systems during all phases of the project's lifecycle," Emerson says. "This will gradually become easier. "It will take time and many small and medium steps. Beware of anyone that says they have the single answer—it will take many answers over time."
Emerson is also an exemplary coworker and friend. "I chose Dave for many reasons, but most of all because as a friend and colleague he is someone I look up to," says Wilkins. "He brought me into Yokogawa, and we work well together as a team."
Dennis Brandl (2013) has worked with Emerson for the past 15 years on various standards committees in the development of the MESA B2MML and in conferences and seminars. "I also count Dave as a good friend. He volunteered to shelter my son when hurricanes were hitting Texas. We have skied together and shared at least a few beers together," Brandl says. "Dave is an intelligent hard worker, and I am continually amazed at the amount he is able to accomplish for the industry developing standards and tools, while still having a full-time regular job at Yokogawa. His work on ISA95, IEC 62264, MESA B2MML and OPC-UA demonstrate a commitment to the industry that goes beyond his basic job. He is a great example for young engineers by demonstrating that engineering can be rewarding and exciting. I can't be happier to see him join the ranks of the Automation Hall of Fame."
Four Excellent Adventures
Our second inductee demonstrates the potential range and heights of a career based in engineering. Inspired by stints in the military and industry, Paul Murrill earned his claim to fame as an influential academic, university administrator, CEO and professional board member, all built on a broad and thorough understanding of process control.