Emerson Execs Talk Economic Trends, Nanosensors

Nov. 18, 2009
Emerson's Steve Sonnenberg and John Berra Offer Their Take on the Economy, Sustainability and the Future of Wireless

Emerson Process Management's president, Steve Sonnenberg, former president, John Berra, and chief strategic officer, Peter Zornio, sat down for an interview with Control magazine at the firm's 2009 user conference, held in late September in Orlando, Fla. Following are exerpts from the interview. ( For more, go to www.controlglobal.com/articles/2009/EmEx09_16.html)
As with most exectives, the economy was top of mind for Sonnenberg. When Control asked if he thought we were in for a "dead-cat bounce" in terms of economic recovery, he said, "We're recovering. We're at the bottom in the housing market, the banks are stable again and customers are waking up.

"Of course, if I really knew the answer to that, I'd be a very rich man. Nobody predicted the start of this thing either. But, I don't think there'll be a ‘dead cat bounce.' The oil companies are looking at the price of steel and knowing that the price of oil is going to go up further, and they're trying to time exactly when they should make these investments, and we're starting to see projects."

Moving on to other trends, Control asked whether the trend toward smaller, less-expensive nanosensors might be a game changer for the industry.

"First, you have to remember that there's more to a transmitter than just the transducer," Sonnenberg said. "I've seen lots of companies try to enter the industrial wireless market without any knowledge of how to design enclosures, user interfaces or gain approvals, and they just don't last. But there are opportunities to do things with sensors that further improvements in wireless will enable. You just have to realize that most of the cost of a transmitter is in the housing, not the transducer."

Finally, when asked why Emerson chose to release a number of brand new products and initiatives, such as the DeltaV S series and Human-Centered Design, in the middle of a deep recession, Sonnenberg said, "Now, our customers have time to think, to consider what these new products will do for them, and to plan their next moves. When times are good, most of our customers are really too busy to look at new things."