Automation Big Dogs Focus on Europe

Jan. 17, 2011
Nick Denbow Reviews the Latest News from Different Automation Conferences

As reported last month, the last few weeks have seen the Europe-located user group meetings for Honeywell and Invensys, plus the Rockwell (worldwide) Automation Fair at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., USA. This, the 19th Rockwell Fair, has become perhaps the major U.S. exhibition in the automation industry, with over 10,000 visitors reported over the two days, to see and hear from Rockwell plus its partner network of 100 associated companies. This year the event had a major contingent of European visitors as well, around 280, and record conference numbers (650) attended the PSUG (Process Systems User Group) separate two-day discussion meeting held before the main exhibition and event, in  parallel with the one day Safety Automation Forum. The press analysts had their own pre-show event, in the full-day "Manufacturing Perspectives" presentations: all were collected under the event banner, "Smart, Safe and Sustainable Manufacturing."

EURA OpsManage boost

The Invensys OpsManage'10 event for the European, African and Russian regions (EURA) was held at Disneyworld in Paris, rather chilly and damp in November compared to Orlando, but still attended by 825 delegates, up 40% on last year. The earlier OpsManage U.S. event in October had attracted 1150 delegates: in Paris some Invensys employees and partners were bounced off the delegate list to accommodate the high customer/user turnout (59% of the total), and the associated M+I (Measurement and Instrumentation) distributor sales conference was placed in a different hotel―more of that later. Major sponsors of these OpsManage events are Microsoft and Cognizant, exhibiting with 37 other suppliers in the "Collaboration Expo" under the Invensys tagline of "Real Collaboration, Real-Time Results."

Honeywell in the sunshine

At the 22nd Honeywell user group meeting in sunny Barcelona, president, Norm Gilsdorf, was much more upbeat and confident about the state of his business after the "worst recession in 80 years," compared to his presentation at the U.S. user meeting in June. The total number of delegates attending the Honeywell event in Europe, entitled "Dynamic Solutions, Endless Possibilities," was up 40% on 2009 at 800, exceeding the earlier U.S. meeting in the summer heat of Arizona, which totalled 525. Microsoft and IBM sponsored the Honeywell conference, along with 15 associated mainly hardware suppliers, including Flowserve, Metso and Masoneilan, plus Matrikon, exhibiting in the lounge and demo areas.

A common theme across all presentations was that the areas to come out of recession and generate business first have been North Africa and Central Asia.

Where the business comes from

From the Honeywell corporate viewpoint, Norm Gilsdorf saw the recovery first in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. Edwin van der Maagdenberg, vice president and general manager for Europe, saw opportunities particularly in North Africa: a newly established North African business unit has recently opened offices in Libya and Algeria―a delegate from Sonatrach of Algeria is a member of the Honeywell EMEA user group steering committee.

Further African business will be supported by the opening of an office in Nigeria, and Maagdenberg also saw opportunities in Egypt. In Angola, Honeywell is now completing an LNG plant video perimeter access control system and apparently is receiving more and more requests for security and similar projects ancillary to the main automation system, including training and simulation programs. Other areas of interest include Central Asia and Russia, plus Honeywell has a new office presence in Iraq. 

New business in Africa

Harald Konermann, vice president for Europe in Invensys, explained that his most successful sales partnerships within the EURA zone were in the geographical extremes of South Africa and Finland. At OpsManage'10 a new partnership was signed with North African Automation of Algiers, who has undertaken major oil and gas projects in Angola, Nigeria and Algeria. Nigeria is seen as a major source of future business for the partnership. IOM (Invensys Operations Management) also signed a deal with Etterkib, the engineering, construction and installation subsidiary of Sonelgaz, the Algerian state owned electricity and natural gas supplier. Egypt hosts a major Invensys software and engineering center.

Oil and gas focus

Marc Baret, marketing director for Rockwell Automation in the EMEA region, saw investments in the Middle East as producing business for Rockwell, significantly in automation for cooking and mixing, rather than the conventional discrete processing and packaging. Oil and gas remains an active business area for Rockwell and its largest single market sector last year, resulting mainly from a bigger emphasis on safety after the BP incident. Rockwell sees its product portfolio as unique here, where it can be global market leader. The major business opportunity is led by ICS Triplex in LNG, rather than being from existing production operations, such as those in the North Sea.

In the power industry, biofuel is still of interest in the U.S. having declined in Europe, but the U.S. is reported as being five years behind Europe in energy saving techniques. There was no comment about solar power, but one of the guest presenters on Rockwell OEM globalization and collaboration was Michael Sweet, MES director for First Solar, discussing its six manufacturing plants in Malaysia: First Solar recently boasted of a 'captive pipeline' of orders for utility-scale solar plants with unnamed partners.