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Emerson Australia’s chief outlines strategy for company’s continuing growth

Recently, Tom Diederich (pictured alongside) spent some time discussing with PACE, the evolution of process control and its future direction. Diederich is VP & GM Australia and New Zealand, Emerson Process Management. An industry veteran of 28 years, Diederich outlines his company’s vision and draws attention to several interesting developments.

What has been Emerson’s experience with wireless devices?
We have doubled our global sales in wireless devices every year since we introduced wireless devices six or seven years back. We actually expect it to go beyond double this year.

Wireless has gone from users saying ‘well that’s pretty cool, but don’t know if I’d try it’ to the point where it’s becoming mainstream. One can see why. Look at some really tough applications like measuring temperature on top of a distillation column or some tank farm safety measurements. It will likely cost the user $1,000 to buy a sensor and $35,000 to $55,000 to wire it up.

If you can get that measurement without spending huge amounts to run the conduit out to it and the copper wire onto it, you’re going to save yourself huge amounts of money and improve your monitoring, control as well as your facility’s health and safety profile.

Regardless of what any automation company says about wireless, they are working on wireless products and they will have wireless out.

Asset Management: Emerson Process

Asset management tools take information from field devices spread across a plant and turns it into useable information. (Image courtesy Emerson Process Management.)

What’s the next big development in process control?
Well, we’ve got intelligent field devices just streaming data to engineers, to maintenance people, to operations, to management. People are simply absolutely overloaded with information.

Six years ago, we started working with Carnegie Mellon and have a co-research effort with them on human centred design. How do we distil and reduce the amount of information we throw at the user at any given time? How do we cut right to the core of the issue and present the answer they’re seeking?

Since then, we’ve developed our own human centred design research unit. We’re doing this design, analysis and research for every single product and software package that we develop.

The other aspect to consider is that reducing complexity is also driven by commonality from device to device.

How is this implemented at Emerson?
If you look at Emerson Process Management, it now consists of Rosemount, Micromotion, Fisher Controls, Daniel and several other independent companies. All of these organisations were developing products the way they thought was best, which was independent of the other divisions. So you would get a screen from Daniel that looked totally different compared with a screen from Rosemount.

Human centred design is not just about reducing data and focusing on exactly what need the user needs, but also making it look common across the entire Emerson family. The devices have a common screen and the user knows exactly where the information is located, regardless of the instrument type.

We’re doing time study analyses of what people do, what their reaction time is, what information they’re looking for, how many clicks it takes to get to that information. Is it intuitive and can it be done without any instruction at all? If you throw somebody down in front of an instrument display and ask them to find X, can they accomplish this in two or three clicks? That’s really what we’re trying to drive with this whole initiative.

Are there other aspects to human centred design?
What I mentioned earlier referred to the operations, maintenance, engineering and management interface.

The other bit is the physical side. For instance, Emerson Process Management, is made up of 14 or 15 world class organisations that were independent at one point. In terms of products, one’s painted brown, one’s painted red, one’s painted green, one’s painted blue.

The terminals for one are over in a box some place. The terminals for another one are in a different shaped box somewhere else. It’s just confusing. If we bring standardisation to our products, then when somebody looks at any of them, they can go ‘that’s Emerson’.

And, because it’s Emerson, its screens look like this, this is how I interact with the product. Here’s where I land the wires. Here’s where the ground strip is. That just makes everybody’s life easier.

So that’s another part of what we’re doing. This human centred design is being applied across product development as well. Actually the industry will be seeing some pretty significant changes as a result of that, probably over the next five years. It’s going to take a while. These are not things that you can flip a switch and it’s done.

How does electronic marshalling fit into Emerson’s plans?
It is incredibly complex to get wires from a field device landed to the correct controller within a control system. That field device could be 1,000 metres distant from the control system in the plant. You bring the wires to a local marshalling panel, then run that from there to a field marshalling panel. Then from there you run multi-conductor cables typically back to the control system, to land it on a controller.

With electronic marshalling, we have basically eliminated this complexity by introducing what we call charms, which are characterisation modules. This allows us to put communication wires from the field device to any single terminal that we want to in a junction box. Don’t care which one.

From there it’s communicated electronically to any controller in the system. Again, we don’t care which one. That has reduced the cost and complexity of marshalling by significant amounts. This is something that was just introduced.

Industry analyst Jim Pinto has described this as one of the biggest developments in the history of process automation systems since the microprocessor. So this is big stuff.

Emerson Australia

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