MCAA forum helps members confront future

May 08, 2017

When three-quarters of your total membership shows up for an event, you know you're doing something right, and that's exactly what happened at this year's Measurement, Control & Automation Association Industry Forum, April 23-25 in Atlanta. The conference drew 244 attendees from 138 companies and six nations—or 75% of all members—to explore the economic and technical state of instrumentation, measurement and analysis in the process industries.

Bharat Naik, MCAA committee chairman and president of Reotemp Instruments, kicked off the event by unveiling the organization's new theMCAA.org website. He was followed by keynote presenter Stephan Neuberger, CEO of Krohne Group, who detailed future instrumentation challenges and reported that Krohne will help meet them by opening a new facility in Beverly, Mass.

"Big users still want to consolidate suppliers, so vendors will need larger portfolios, and they'll have to master all applicable technologies in depth, which is what we're doing with our 4+1 field instrumentation concept," said Neuberger. "However, because there are so few in-house engineers, suppliers are also going to have to become even better solution providers. We're also going to need a standard, uniform communications channel, and learn to do the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) without compromising safety or availability."

To help its members succeed in today's emerging IIoT arena, MCAA recruited a panel of experts, including Neuberger; Kirk King, vice president of marketing at Endress+Hauser; Phil Hunt, president of Adaptive Wireless Solutions; and Vinny Micheroni, vice president of R&D at Schneider Electric. While each outlined different IIoT approaches, the group agreed that process instrumentation's path to it will most likely include smart sensors.

"Smart sensors are connecting more and more devices, and customers are getting much more data, but a lot of it isn't useful to them," said King. "What they need are ways to capture actionable information and avoid clutter, and our Heartbeat Verifiction capability can do it."

Hunt reported that Adaptive's technology allows in third-party devices, treats them as one intelligent device, and enables them to communicate. "Users don't want 500 readings. They want a profile of the tank they're accessing," explained Hunt. "Many devices are less costly these days, but they'd still better be doing something that users need."

In response to concerns that IIoT is going to eliminate the traditional DCS, Micheroni reported that, "The DCS is not going away. Real-time control is not going to be in the cloud. Inexpensive sensors can monitor, enable diagnostics and upload a lot of detailed data via 4-20 mA or HART networking, but the DCS still puts everything together."

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The highlight of the forum's last day was the announcement of three new inductees into the MCAA Hall of Fame. The presentations were made by Peter Martin, vice president of strategic ventures, Schneider Electric. This second class includes:

• Robert Deane, co-founder of Fluid Components International (FCI), who holds three patents, including the original thermal flow switch patent that helped launch FCI;

• Malcolm McQueen, co-founder and emeritus chairman of FCI, who holds more than 19 patents involving flow applications; and

• Judy Stevenson (posthumous award), owner and board chairman of Magnetrol International, who started as a part-time clerk in 1964, rose to become president in 1975, bought the company in 1978, and maintained its people-oriented culture and aggressive commitment to R&D, new technologies, training and creative thinking.