We’re very busy producing the “show daily” for the conference, but that keeps us moving around the area and learning new things.

Steve Sonnenberg and Peter Zornio had to start the day off with me for an exclusive interview. It was a wide ranging discussion that began with standards and ended with target industry trends. Here are highlights of the interview:

GM: You were refreshingly open and transparent about the supply chain struggles the company endured. It sounds like you came out stronger.

Sonnenberg: It was helpful to put a face on the problem and just acknowledge the situation and thank our customers for working with us. We really appreciated the loyalty of our customers as our teams worked to prioritize needs to assure that the most critical needs were served first. There was some tremendous working together such as when some companies realized that they had extra parts and offered to sell or loan them back to help other companies in need.

GM: You have made services a major point of the conference this year. In fact, you even did a press conference differently by using Emerson executives to set the context and then had some very articulate customers explain how they were using various services. The point was that they were using Emerson personnel resources–engineers, project managers, program managers. I believe this move of engineering resources from users to suppliers has been going on for some time. Is this a growing and continuing trend?

Zornio: Yes, this is a growing trend. Engineers are a scarce resource. This is actually a more efficient use of resources. We can hire engineers and put them in regional areas where they are more readily available to customers. We can cut down airplane time and improve the speed of service. Customers often find it more efficient to hire us as the main automation contractor for many kinds of projects.

GM: One of your customers mentioned yesterday that he was not worried about Intellectual Property problems, because his company has domain expertise in manufacturing the product while they can rely on your automation expertise.

Zornio: That’s just one of the efficiencies of allocating engineering resources. Another customer mentioned that he is only one-deep in expertise in many areas within the company. We are an alternative way to enhance his expertise. Even EPCs are seeing value in hiring us as the automation designer so that they don’t have to develop expertise in that area.

GM: Emerson has been strong in oil and gas for many years, now, and in fact the Industry Forum session devoted to oil & gas and refining were filled to overflowing. But so was the Life Sciences session. What’s happening there?

Sonnenberg: There are a number of things going on in that industry. First, there is a lot of consolidation which is both a challenge and an opportunity as the companies rationalize different automation systems. So far, we have been chosen as the supplier for the combined companies. Specifically in the pharma area, we are working with the companies to do some of the control system design up front–to put DeltaV in the lab, so to speak–so that it shrinks time at the end of the project as they move from trial to production.

iOps Center

The assembled media were introduced to the “iOps Center” demonstration during Monday’s press conference. I have seen similar at Invensys and ABB, so my curiosity was whetted. Whether dubbed “Integrated Operations Center” or “Intelligent Operations Center,” the demonstration showed off Emerson and third-party technologies and the power of Emerson solutions services.

Multiple, easy-to-read screens paired with advanced video conferencing and collaboration technologies enable advanced decision making whether predictive maintenance or energy trading. They showed using for remote experts–say condition-monitoring experts for rotating equipment talking to the process automation and instrumentation folks. Another scenario was an energy trader who needed to make a fast buy/no-buy decision and could summon multiple screens, dashboards, others in the same control room or remote video conferencing.

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