2014 Process Automation Hall of Fame

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

By Paul Studebaker

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.

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"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.

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.

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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.

Murrill was born in St. Louis, but grew up in rural Mississippi where his mother had inherited three very rural acres. His father was blind and for the last 20 years of his working life sewed brooms for a living. Murrill was educated in Pocahontas, Miss., where the village school served a total of 17 students in grades K-12.

When public schools were consolidated by the county, his home was at the end of the longest school bus route in Hinds County. At age 15, he got a state chauffeur's license and drove the bus. "My mother didn't like it parked at the house, but she appreciated the $25 per month they gave me for driving it," Murrill says.

In high school, Murrill took four years of vocational agriculture, and his 400-pound Poland China sow won the Grand Championship at the Hinds County Livestock Show. He hoped to go to Mississippi State, but won a Naval ROTC scholarship that covered his entire expenses to go to Ole Miss, where he earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering with honors, was president of the School of Engineering and Battalion Commandant of the NROTC.

"The Navy, for me, was a way to get off the farm," Murrill says. "The ROTC offered really fine scholarships. They paid your way for four years—everything, totally—with a three-year active duty obligation. It was during the Korean War, and the draft was in effect, so I had to do something."

Upon his discharge in 1959, Murrill and his wife, Nancy, were married and moved to Lake Charles, La., where he joined Columbia Southern Chemical Co. as a process engineer. "It was interesting work, but I didn't want to do it for the rest of my life," Murrill says. "I looked at what my boss was doing and what his boss was doing, and decided to get a PhD." In 1960, he enrolled in graduate school at LSU, and six semesters and one summer session later, he had a master of science and a doctorate in chemical engineering with a minor in modern physics and a reading knowledge of French and German.

In 1963, Murrill became an assistant professor in LSU's Dept. of Chemical Engineering. Over the next six years, he was appointed to associate professor, professor and head of the department. He specialized in the use of digital computers in process control, authoring or co-authoring 11 textbooks and more than 70 research journal publications, and in the mid-1960s received a grant of more than $1 million dollars over several years from the U.S. Dept. of Defense to  create a center for digital automata at LSU.

"What I find alluring about the field is it's interesting and challenging, not dull," Murrill says. "Every day is a new challenge, and I like that. The most interesting applications are dynamic, not a plant that just sits there and operates at the same rate 365 days a year. Those are like the ships I was on in the Navy, always going along at 15 knots. The gauges never moved."

Having achieved excellence as a professor, Murrill moved on to administration. In 1969, he was appointed LSU's chief academic officer and number two administrative officer of the Baton Rouge campus. He was 35. His days in chemical engineering were ending. In 1972, his title was changed, though not his duties, and he became LSU's first provost. In 1974, he was named chancellor of LSU, and he served in that position until the end of 1980. During this era, more than 1 million square feet of academic space was added to the campus, the campus was air conditioned, a charter for a Phi Beta Kappa chapter was granted, LSU was named a Sea Grant University, and an increased emphasis on research and academic achievement was undertaken. Murrill was selected by Change magazine as one of the top 100 educators in the United States.

Having reached the top of a career in academic administration, Murrill retired from LSU in 1981 and moved on to corporate management, first as executive vice president of research for Ethyl Corp. He had started serving on various boards of directors, eventually including three NYSE companies, Foxboro, Tidewaters and Gulf States Utilities. In 1982, the CEO of Gulf States Utilities developed Lou Gehrig's disease. After a board meeting, the chairman called an executive meeting and asked Murrill to become chairman and CEO. Murrill says, "That brought my engineering career to a quick halt."

When Murrill took over at Gulf States, construction of its River Bend nuclear power plant was virtually stopped. The plant was 46% complete (on paper), and the $1.7 billion construction budget (not including interest costs) had all been spent. Paul raised the money to finish the plant, which was licensed in 1985, but its huge cost materially weakened the company. The stress and work load took a severe burden on Murrill's health. He kept his position as chairman but resigned the CEO position, and in 1988 he had heart angioplasty surgery.

During the latter part of the 1980s, Murrill shifted his career focus one more time, from full-time executive management to consulting and expanding his work as a board member for public corporations. A major part of his consulting work was for the Instrument Society of America (ISA) as editor for a series of books on instrumentation and process control. The series eventually totaled 27 books.

Murrill's additional major accomplishments include:

  • Serving on the boards of 27 SEC-regulated public corporations,
  • Serving from 1979 to 1997 as an advisor to the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory,
  • Eight years on the board of trustees (two as chairman) of FMOL Health Systems, with hospital and health care facility assets totaling $789 million and including OLOL hospital,
  • In 2003, designation by InTech (the official magazine of the ISA) as one of the 50 persons most influential in advancing automation, instrumentation and control technologies,
  • Member of 13 honorary and professional societies and of numerous civic and public non-profit boards and commissions. He has received numerous awards, been selected for five halls of distinction and awarded two medals.

"My career sort of breaks down into four stages—a decade as a scholar, a decade as a university administrator, a decade as a corporate executive and a decade as a professional director," Murrill says. "I like processes that are always in a state of change—like batch processes—and especially finding the best path—not only getting there, but doing it the most efficient way and maintaining it once you get there.

"First you try to make it work without blowing up. Then you make it stable; then maximize the return on capital. I like applications more than hardware—what's happening, what needs to happen, the economic challenge. I always assumed the hardware will be there.

"I like doing different things. I've also had incredibly good luck."