There was plenty of cool new products unveiled at last week’s Emerson Global Users Exchange. As a former product development manager, I liked the “peanut butter and chocolate” moment when Emerson’s engineers were trying to solve the human location in a plant problem. They realized that many customers already have a WirelessHART mesh network. Why don’t we use location tags with WirelessHART as the communications service? Cool.
Topping the news released during the week was announcement that Emerson has agreed to acquire Intelligent Platforms, a division of General Electric. Intelligent Platforms’ programmable logic controller (PLC) technologies will enable Emerson, a leader in automation for process and industrial applications, to provide its customers broader control and management of their operations.
This is a great acquisition. It reveals Emerson as a company that has its act together. This is the consolidation trend in the industry. Siemens has a complete portfolio (well, mostly). ABB recently acquired B+R Automation in a similar move. Schneider Electric added Foxboro and Triconex from Invensys to its mostly factory automation portfolio. So there are four major companies aligning their competitive offerings. And all are focused on digital transformation for their customers.
Even Rockwell Automation has built a process automation business over time. It recently shunned acquisition with its money and instead invested $1 billion for a little over 8% of PTC in order to achieve a closer partnership with ThingWorx (and a seat on the board). Maybe having an executive on the board, it can learn how Jim Hepplemann managed to build a company through acquisition.
Back to Emerson. GE IP (formerly know as GE Fanuc) has a line of PLCs, motion control, and HMIs. It hasn’t promoted its products for years, but they are still alive and well in Charlottesville, VA. This is a great strategic move.
As for GE? Well, we know that it is having a fire sale. I’d wondered about this part of the business. Now we all wonder about what’s left of GE Digital. We know from a Wall Street Journal article that it’s for sale. And also we know that the board just replaced the CEO evidently for not moving quickly enough. But…will anyone want GE Digital? I’m sure everyone has looked. Here’s a thought. What if it wound up with an IT company to complement these burgeoning IoT practices?