A visit to Planet Emerson

You know how it is...go someplace and get sidetracked. Well, I am always a sucker for a pretty manufacturing plant, so since I had a free day, today, instead of doing what a normal person would do, and go sightseeing in Shanghai, I went and visited Emerson China's headquarters and plant. It is about an hour and a half from here, yet it is also in metropolitan Shanghai, which has over 12 million population. The plant here in Shanghai mostly does DeltaV and Ovation integration--yes, there is a place on the planet where the deltaV guys and the Ovation guys sit in the same cube farm and work in the same staging bays. And I am here to tell you that I have never in the 30+years I've been in this business, ever seen better fabricated panels. I built panels for a living once, and I never did the quality of work I saw, and I've been in the same part of the factory with every control system vendor at least once, and nobody does better work. One particularly beautiful panel was a deltaV in an all stainless purged enclosure that was about 10 meters long, that was destined for an offshore platform. No sloppiness, everything right and tight. No stereotypical "Made in China" shoddiness here...and in fact, I am coming to believe that there isn't much of that anymore-- except perhaps in food and toys. On the way back to the hotel, for example, I passed a flatbed truck carrying about a thousand pairs of handlebars for bicycles. The workmanship sure looked fine. I spent the morning with Richard Wei, the business director for process systems and solutions, and Grace Yang, who has the role of senior planning and marketing manager for process systems and solutions. Richard gave me the lecture (8 plants in China, almost all of them wholly owned now, well over 1000 engineers, etc.) and then the plant tour. Richard has been around the industry a while, having worked in Australia for Honeywell, and others.  Grace, who is extremely sharp and might be President of Emerson some day, has been in her role for a year and a half, and an Emerson China employee for nine years. She's responsible for marketing and strategic planning. That's a role I have also combined more than once, and it was enjoyable discussing Grace and Richard's view of the market. For those worried about Emerson making cheap stuff in China and sending it back to the US, don't. Most of Emerson China's production is for domestic consumption, and for Pacific Rim export. Only a small amount is shipped to the USA. It is also no longer true that Chinese divisions of major automation companies are only building older technology stuff. Emerson builds all of its frontline products in China, except MicroMotion. They do final assembly, including flanging, transmitter, and testing of flow products in the Shanghai facility, up to about 12-inch diameter, for magnetic flowmeters and Coriolis meters. They have a "master meter" rig for Coriolis, the same as the one in Boulder, and a gravimetric flow lab for both larger Coriolis and other flowmeters. I also met briefly with Dominic Tang, the sales director, and the big boss,  Lee Swee-Chee, Emerson China's general manager. Planet Emerson is certainly alive and well in Shanghai. I'm coming back to China in April 08, for the ISA SP100 meeting in Qongqing, and maybe I can go visit some more automation factories in China, and MAYBE even an end-user.

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