Invensys Has a Vision - Plus a Marketing Plan?

Jan. 17, 2011
Potential for Invensys Investment from China

The impression left by Invensys OpsManage'10 was of a company with a great depth of technology and know-how, both in products and people, having made major strides in pulling itself together over the past 18 months as Invensys Operations Management (IOM), and with people very skilled in their own areas, who were now trying to understand how to move forward together. It seems everything is moving forward, but not necessarily together.

The OpsManage event started on the Monday evening for the industrial press. After a weekend where the national and financial press had reported extensively on comments made by Ulf Henriksson, Invensys plc chief executive, after sitting at dinner next to the Chinese prime minister's private secretary during a U.K. government trade mission to China, when he mentioned the potential for Invensys investment from China. Immediately the Invensys share price returned to the year's highest level, nearly GBP 3.50p, and the company HQ had to issue an immediate denial of take-over rumors. More of this later.

Consolidation of IOM

Giuseppe Caltabiano, European vice president for marketing and communications, opened the conference on Tuesday and very smoothly introduced a totally revised presentation schedule, where Sudipta Battacharya, president and CEO for IOM, replaced Teemu Tunkelo, regional president of IOM for EURA, who was not available. The main theme from Battacharya was the bridging of the real-time frontier between manufacturing and the customer to enable the production line to 'make to order': this is where technology from Skelta, one of the latest acquisitions, is now providing a workflow engine embedded in ArchestrA, to give workflow connectivity to the shop floor, and empower the workforce.

In a separate discussion, Battacharya confirmed that he was pleasantly surprised as to how well the consolidation of the four divisions under the one IOM banner had worked, and the results achieved. "Over the last 18 months, IOM has had some of the biggest wins in terms of the core business: In refining we won a massive refinery in Latin America for Petrobras, a Saudi Aramco and Total JV for a new refinery in Saudi Arabia, all six of the six nuclear reactors bid in China, and a significant deal in Algeria with Sonatrach, and all are $50-60-70-million jobs." This has put IOM back into a healthy position, and it is "always looking for smart bolt-on technology acquisitions:" Later rumors around the exhibit hall suggested the next candidate for bolt-on acquisition was there, on display.

Marketing vs. R+D spend

Queried about the lack of PR and marketing news until this OpsManage event, Battacharya expressed a desire that he would "Much rather be quiet and under-promise, than be seen as a company that is doing a lot of marketing." This was backed up by the comment that he would "Rather take an incremental dollar of marketing and put it into R+D than put it anywhere else." Caltabiano followed this line too, suggesting that the IOM activity in PR would be concentrated in April and October, rather than spread out over the year.

However. this approach was rather shot out of the water when the press and delegates received the two CDs of background marketing material, one with 50 customer success stories from firms working closely with IOM, and a second with the OpsManage "Collateral Materials," containing 59 product application stories and 92 further success stories, all with the new IOM logo and format―the result of spending a lot of incremental marketing dollars, it would seem.

Because customers, after placing control system orders, are asking about decision support systems available for use on top of their new control systems, Battacharya, via IOM's innovation group, set up a talent management program internally, where it asked its own young technical people "Where is the world headed," and "Tell us what you want to work on," which leads to ideas or concepts that can be refined and floated to customers.

What about the hardware?

Well, there was some real hardware on the OpsManage exhibition stands, so it would be unfair to say it was pushed to one side, in favor of clever software. But in comparison to the Honeywell User Group or the Rockwell Automation Fair, the associated companies IOM had invited to support the show were all software systems-oriented, apart from Phoenix Contact, Pepperl + Fuchs and Wika. The Invensys stands (19 of them) presented three or four where true hardware was in evidence, from Foxboro, Eurotherm, Eckardt (valve positioners), plus a few more with EYEsim, Intelatrac and Triconex equipment. Probably the OpsManage audience as yet has not quite developed from the original Wonderware profile―even Caltabriano suggested that the majority of the users present were typically Wonderware clients.

The hardware was there, alive and well, but maybe just keeping a low profile. The M+I conference was held in a separate hotel within Disneyworld: M+I was used as an undefined term in the conference guide, but I can reveal I think it probably means 'Measurement and Instrumentation.' Here there were a lot of enthusiastic people huddled together talking about Foxboro and Eurotherm products and enjoying a training conference for around 85 delegates from the EURA M+I sales distributors and agents.

Development of the nanodac

Rob Rennie is the managing director, a very English title, of Invensys Eurotherm in Worthing, U.K. He is enthusiastic about the advantages brought by the closer working relationships within IOM, and the alliances with Cognizant and Microsoft. One of the main topics at the M+I conference, the new nanodac miniature recorder/controller, has benefited during the development phase by pulling in the networking expertise from Cognizant in particular. This has enabled the creation of the nanodac Ethernet communications, including store and forwarding features, which breaks this graphical recorder out of the normal 'island of automation' such recorders historically create, enabling information flow and even an interface with iPad and intelligent phone systems.

Rennie took the development one stage further, in that with miniaturization and slashing the price, whilst retaining the best technical capabilities of higher price recorders, the nanodac 'puts a smile on the customer’s face'―because he gets all the right answers to his performance challenges, and it looks good.

Foxboro USA and links to Oxford

A similar story of collaboration comes behind the new Foxboro PAC system, a compact design for a fast controller that sits between a PLC and a DCS, to give control, graphics, batch and recipe capability, at a competitive price. This was described as having Wonderware software, in Foxboro hardware, built at Eurotherm, with some Taylor input.

Brian Dickson, vice president, field devices, from Plano, Texas, explained the technology advantages and sales successes behind the Foxboro Coriolis and vortex meters and the pH sensors. Over 22 years the Foxboro Coriolis meter is claimed to have quietly led the industry, with the help of significant input from Dr. Manus Henry at the Invensys University Technology Centre for Advanced Instrumentation at Oxford University. Several of the resulting patents have even been carefully and selectively licensed to other (competitive) manufacturers.

A recent seminar by Dr. Henry described the application of Coriolis meters to wet gas metering in Alberta, Canada, net oil metering in Texas and bunker fuel metering in Singapore. Few such application stories seem to have been seen in the industrial media, but for this OpsManage event a PR was issued describing one of the skids developed that use Foxboro Coriolis meters and other Foxboro sensors to provide advanced process monitoring, used to simplify HF acid catalyst measurement on petroleum refinery alkylation units. The monitoring models that are used to deduce the HF measurement run inside an associated Foxboro PAC controller, but the solution is described as a component of the InFusion Enterprise Control System.

Asked about wireless applications of Foxboro sensors, Dickson commented that he would not waste development money on any built-in wireless capability until the current elements of controversy (ie WirelessHart vs. ISA100) have settled down, but when needed Foxboro apply a WirelessHART plug-in adapter with Pepperl+Fuchs base units.