34 Years on,  ABB Tackles  Flowmeter Rationalization

July 10, 2008
ABB, A Powerful Brand in Flowmeter Technology

ABB’s travails in attempting to rationalize the plethora of DCSs with which it was saddled after the acquisition binge of the 1990s―anything up to a dozen depending on how you’re counting―are now the stuff of legend and held up as a dire warning to any process automation CEO who might for one moment contemplate acquiring a competitor. Less widely appreciated, but if anything even more mind-boggling, however, is the diversity of the instrumentation portfolio which resulted from a trail of mergers and acquisitions going back more than 40 years.

One of the jewels in that crown has been flow measurement with, for example, a claimed 70% share of the £60m U.K. flowmeter market. It is an indication of the strength of the brands in that area that it is only now, 34 years after the merger which created Brown Boveri Kent,l and a full 14 years after ABB’s acquisition of Fischer & Porter, that the Kent and F&P flowmeter ranges are finally being subsumed into a single ABB range under the generic brand, FlowMaster.

Integrated range

The new range and branding had its first U.K. outing at this month’s meeting of the First Friday Club, the monthly gathering in London’s Fleet Street at which three or four companies are granted the dubious privilege of addressing a pre-prandial gathering of technical hacks in exchange for picking up the bill for a substantial lunch. FlowMaster is in fact a lot more than a simple rebranding exercise and represents the development of single integrated range featuring consistent design and shared technology across a diversity of technologies aimed at the full spectrum of vertical industry sectors. All devices feature a common local “through the glass” HMI and new diagnostics based on the NAMUR NE107 E framework for diagnostic detection and alarming.

As Mark Allison of the UK flow products operation explained, “You won’t actually be able to buy a FlowMaster product.” That’s because FlowMaster is in effect a generic brand within which industry-specific options are being developed for key vertical market sectors under their own specific brands. First of these to be released in the U.K. is the water-industry-specific WaterMaster range, which is to be followed by ProcessMaster and HygienicMaster derivatives for the process, food & beverage and pharmaceutical sectors.

Eventually the family will extend to the chemicals, oil and gas, power, metals & mining and pulp & paper industries with a full range of technologies including, for example, differential pressure, Coriolis and mag flow. In the last case, new technology is resulting in a four-fold improvement in response time and a two-thirds reduction in noise as a result of the use of new magnetic materials, new coil designs and improved electrode sealing. Enhanced accuracy of ±0.2% has been demonstrated in dairy applications to result in a pay-back period of less than 12 months