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Intuition is the key to technological development says Honeywell VP

Ian Brown (pictured alongside) worked with Honeywell in Australia 25 years ago in the building management area. He returned to the UK, joined Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) and worked predominantly in management projects in the North Sea.

He then crossed sides and ended up being a client of Honeywell for a number of years, eventually forming his own process optimisation consultancy. Brown was looking at remote performance management of turbines, compressors and equipment offshore.

During that time he employed Matrikon technology for the projects on which he was working. That relationship with Matrikon grew and Brown moved into upstream well monitoring. In 2004, Matrikon acquired Brown’s business. Brown stayed on, growing that business to 25 percent of Matrikon’s total turnover.

In June 2010, Honeywell acquired Matrikon and his career came full circle. Matrikon was integrated into Honeywell Process Solutions, which is part of Honeywell’s Automation and Control Solutions business group.

Brown is currently Vice President & General Manager, Advanced Solutions, Honeywell Process Solutions. He took some time off at the Honeywell Users Group Symposium in Perth to talk to PACE.

Honeywell had expressed the intention to preserve Matrikon as a separate entity. How has this worked out?
There are two parts to Matrikon. The connectivity piece is MatrikonOPC and this has been preserved. It resides in their fuel products business. They’re vendor neutral; building and providing servers to the industry.

The other part is the Advanced Solutions business. Through the transition, Matrikon continued to operate as it was, while we looked at the synergies within the technology.

The decision was made to form a separate Advanced Solutions business – bring some of the Advanced Solutions business that was in the Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) global organisation together with the Matrikon acquisition to form a dedicated Advanced Solutions business.

So the new Advanced Solutions business contains that part of Matrikon, as well as the complementary part of the product suite from Honeywell.

What do you see as growth areas for Honeywell Process Solutions business in Australia?
I guess it’s the commodity boom, so mining. We have a really strong mining capability here in Australia. The legacy Matrikon business was really founded and focused on mining.

A lot of the products we developed in the mining space were actually developed in Newcastle in New South Wales.

We have a strong resource pool with 150 people in the Matrikon Australia organisation. Combining this with the upstream oil and gas capability of the legacy Honeywell operation delivers a lot of opportunities.

Coal mining is another key strength of the legacy Matrikon organisation. Conventional and unconventional oil and gas would be the other area of focus. I guess these three industries are really driving the economic growth in Australia, so all those growth drivers are strong areas for us.

Has Matrikon has developed any solutions in Australia that have been used overseas?
Absolutely. Downtime Reporter was developed in Australia and is used globally within the new Advanced Solutions business. It’ll form an integral part of our asset reliability, asset management practice.

They’re also developing a product called Mine to Port, which is a supply chain management system to manage everything from the pit site all the way through to the distribution channels. So, again that will become a mainstream mining offering within the Honeywell Advanced Solutions business and applicable all around the world. There are a couple of projects already in development for Mine to Port.

Why is Matrikon often referred to as Honeywell’s most important acquisition?
We were in a transition from traditional DCS vendor to business transformation enabler. Hence our consultancy based approach. Matrikon has always been a standards based organisation.

Bringing that ability to connect deeply to any DCS platform, any historian platform or any application in the middle space, really changes our vision of the way we can service our clients.

We can move from focusing on the assets that traditionally had Experion, the legacy Honeywell DCS. We can now look at the whole enterprise in the Advanced Solutions space.

We want to be in a position to take information that’s in the plan, transform this information and thereby enable our clients to make better, faster decisions. That’s really the foundation of business transformation.

What innovations can we expect to see from Honeywell Process Solutions?
In terms of technology innovation, the main focus is our Intuition platform that will serve the majority of the MES and operational excellence products. This will allow us to focus on the people and the process part of the problem. So technology is only part of the deal.

Intuition is a platform that allows us to incorporate the work processes and provide the collaboration to get people working together. You will see innovation in terms of rapid response to emerging industry trends.

Take coal seam gas, for example. We quickly took our foundational well monitoring package and re-factored it to look after coal seam gas wells. The infrastructure is exactly the same but it’s another algorithm, different KPIs to monitor these coal seam and gas wells.

We were able to move that into production within months. An ability to quickly and agilely respond to industry trends and emerging markets – this is what you will see from the Advanced Solutions business.

How does the skills shortage impact on the way you develop products?
In a lot of instances, particularly in Australia, people have staffed up to manage and monitor say 500 offshore or onshore wells. The expansion plans for those businesses may take them to tens of thousands of wells. If you linearly extend the resource from 500 to 10,000, it just doesn’t work.

There isn’t that number of skilled resources available. Companies must become smarter in the way they use their limited resource pool. And this really drives the need for technology. Before the technology is implemented, we had a set of operators that drove a route from well to well.

Their capacity to physically cover a number of wells governs the manning profile and they effectively repeat that route loop after loop.

Technology allows us to identify and send operators only to wells that really need intervention. We’re able to monitor the rest remotely. You can cover more assets with a small resource pool.

How do you view the Australian market?
Our Australian customers have always been among the most innovative. A lot of the clients we work with here are viewed as thought leaders within the industry and have been early adopters of technology.

I think it’s a fantastic time to be in Australia. But I think that our clients also have some significant issues to overcome in terms of being able to resource the commodity boom that we are experiencing. It’s going to be a challenge and is one that Honeywell is looking to help its clients overcome.

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