Dear Emerson-san, we’re coming to get you!

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Focus on the factory of the future
e're coming to get you and we're coming on strong! That's the message Yokogawa CEO Isao Uchida delivered at the introduction of their new DCS concept, Vigilant Plant, at the ARC Forum in Orlando. Pointing out that this is Yokogawa's 90th year in the controls industry, Uchida-san claimed large sales increases "outside Japan."

"(We’ve had) 20% sales increases outside Japan annually since 2000, so we are gaining market share,” he said. “Some of the competitors in this room are not happy, but competition is ... competition." Uchida-san declared his corporate intention to be number one by 2010.

One can argue that, combined with the sales decreases inside Japan, Yokogawa's recent growth rate is really about 10%, which is in line with every other major automation vendor and, in fact, one of those "competitors in this room" did argue that. But the fact remains that Uchida has definitely thrown down the gauntlet to Emerson and the rest of the Big Six.

He also said something else very interesting. He said, "Yokogawa takes full responsibility for these systems and products." Does he really mean that? Is Yokogawa actually claiming system responsibility in general? If he is, this is a major step forward in vendor accountability because, as we all know, vendors are always trying to duck responsibility for how their products are actually used, and whether they work to spec in your process.

And finally, now there are three. Although serious questions still are being asked about the philosophy, it seems the majors are embracing the combined DCS-SIS philosophy.

Yokogawa introduced something called ProSafeRS, which makes them the third major player to do so, and the second in a month. ABB, you will recall, introduced its combined DCS-SIS offering in early January.

But here's the rub. Yokogawa's system is not yet TÜV certified (they say certification in March, for sure) and, according to Chief Technology Officer Akira Nagashima, they only have beta test installations even in Japan.

So, even though there are three systems to choose from, are there really? Emerson is famously not shipping yet. It was a little unfair for Nagashima-san to respond to my question about exactly what differences existed between ProSafe and Emerson's system by saying, "Well, Emerson isn't shipping yet." After all, neither is Yokogawa. And although ABB insists they have installations, and are in fact shipping product, their competitors continue to insist that the only installations ABB has are the beta test units at Dow Chemical, and they won't ship production units before anybody else does.

And so it goes. Is it product innovation? Is it, as Ed Sederlund from Dow claims, a legitimate concept to combine DCS with SIS (after all, Dow's former proprietary DCS system did it for years) or is it more vendor FUD? End users will only get to make that decision after somebody starts putting product in the field.

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