"What moment of ingenuity set you on the path to where you are today?" began Steve Sonnenberg, Emerson executive vice president and president of Emerson Process Management, in his keynote address on the first day of the 2014 Emerson Global Users Exchange this week in Orlando, Florida. For Sonnenberg, the memorable moment of inspiration "came when I won first prize in the fourth-grade science fair. My project was on inertia," he said. "What about you?"
We all have the capacity for ingenious solutions to our problems if we keep an open mind and are willing to seek a little help from those around us. "The person next to you may have figured out the answer to a problem you're struggling with today," Sonnenberg said.
For Emerson as a business, 2014 started out a bit slow, but is accelerating in the second half. There's strife around the world, but "the North American market has been a stabilizing force," Sonnenberg said. "In fact, it's become the new emerging market. Our orders for the first three quarters were up 6%, and North America was more than double that" These results are fueled by oil and gas projects in North America, with international activity also recovering in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.
Since the last Exchange, Emerson Process Management has added more than 3,500 people and acquired four companies: MRG (reliability), Virgo (on/off valves), Enardo (safety and environmental equipment for tanks and terminals) and APM (level instrumentation for bulk solids).
"I want Emerson to be a listening organization," Sonnenberg said. "The better we listen to you, the better we understand your needs, and then the better we can help you keep the promises you make." Those promises include those made to your customers to produce quality products; to your employees to provide a safe place to work; to your bosses to complete projects on time and in budget; and to your shareholders for a solid return on their investments, Sonnenberg said.
Emerson keeps close tabs on industry trends and economic factors that can influence your business, and it surveys customers about its performance and future direction, he continued. "And, of course, we listen to what you say whenever we meet with you, from service calls to executive briefings and everything in between."
"I've heard you, and so has my management team. What you've told us guides our investments to strengthen our ability to help you meet the challenges you face." There is no shortage of challenges. Three major ones are project risk due to increased size and complexity; reliability and uptime; and skills shortages.
Emerson products such as Smart Wireless instruments and Electronic Marshalling with CHARMS technology reduce project risk. "CHARMS technology simplifies the thousands of I/O connections in a project. It reduces the time and cost required to make changes, even late in the project. And it has been successfully implemented in more than 600 sites around the world," Sonnenberg said.
Emerson also has more than 5,000 project personnel around the world with the skills and experience to help effectively manage its customers' projects.
On reliability, "ARC estimates as much as $20 billion in annual losses are caused by unscheduled shutdowns or slowdowns, and that 80% of those situations are preventable," Sonnenberg said. "Just think what improved reliability could mean in your operation."
Emerson has acquired MRG and is adding its reliability experts to its teams, Sonnenberg said. "They bring a consulting approach to reliability that helps you gain management buy-in—all the way to the boardroom."
Other Emerson strategies to improve reliability are pervasive sensing technologies, such as vibration, corrosion, gas and steam trap leak detection, to detect problems before they cause slowdowns or shutdowns; service experts to help plan and execute shutdowns; and rapid access to spare parts.
On the skills shortage, "Finding the right people with the right skills and experience is downright tough," Sonnenberg said. "One study found that not having the right project team and skills available was the root cause behind 26% of project delays." Emerson is helping with educational services, skilled Emerson personnel in more than 400 service centers around the world, and the ability to embed an onsite asset manager to monitor equipment and work with your maintenance team.
"Finally, we help you leverage the skills and experience of your smartest people no matter where they are," Sonnenberg said. "Integrated operations centers, or iOps centers, use communication and collaboration tools to bring the problems to the experts, instead of making them go to where the problem is. That's a much more efficient way to make sure you have the right skills in the right places.
"We not only listen, but we also act when you tell us your problems. Our goal is to help you keep the promises you make."