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Power to the people

We sat down with Endress+Hauser Conducta’s head honcho and found out why the instrumentation company is going from strength to strength, Sarah Falson writes.

For the head of Endress+Hauser Conducta, chief executive officer Dr Manfred Jagiella, people are key. With numerous important customers based around Australia, Jagiella recently visited our shores to find out firsthand what these organisations need from the liquid analysis sensors provider.

Endress+Hauser’s Conducta business is one of the company’s four main product centres (PCs) that specialise in specific product portfolios. While Conducta researches and develops breakthroughs in liquid analysers and analysis sensors, Endress+Hauser’s other three PCs include Flowtec (specialising in flow technology); Maulburg (developing level sensors, pressure sensors and tank gauging equipment); and Wetzer (supplying temperature recorders and system components like power supplies and barriers).

With each PC supplying to Endress+Hauser’s global network of forty sales centres (SCs) — including Endress+Hauser Australia Pty Ltd, headed-up by managing director John Immelman — Conducta and its counterparts are focused on being at the cusp of emerging technology in a rapidly growing global process and control marketplace.

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“Australia has some of the most sophisticated desalination plant projects in the world, offering strategic business opportunities for Endress+Hauser’s flow, level, pressure, temperature and liquid analysis products,” Jagiella, who regularly visits his global SCs, told PACE.

Jagiella said that not only does Australia purchase a large amount of liquid analysis technology, but also that the market is extremely mature in terms of its requirements.

“Australia is up there with the global leaders in the application of our technologies. Our customers in Australia help to give us direction for future product development through their application needs,” he said.

Since starting work at Conducta two years ago, Jagiella has been instrumental in the development of some of Endress+Hauser’s most technologically-advanced buildings and production facilities. This includes most notably Conducta’s new headquarters in Gerlingen, near the Black Forest in Germany, which is certified to ISO14000 and incorporates an innovative heating and cooling system that dramatically reduces both the company’s energy costs and its CO2 emissions.

Costing an incredible 15 million Euros (approximately AUD$30 million), production in Conducta’s new facility is completely lead-free — including the soldering of its PC boards and the glass incorporated in its pH electrodes, which is one of the firsts for the industry.

Sustainability is the name of the game for Endress+Hauser and by extension Conducta. According to Jagiella, the elements of sustainability, excellence, commitment and friendliness drive all its actions.

“The spirit of Endress+Hauser can be found in its people, who convey our brand values in everything that they do,” he said. “Global customers increasingly want to work with suppliers that include sustainability as part of their strategy. In our case, this means keeping the business independent from banks, as we have an equity of more than 60 per cent; implementing strategies that will ensure our brand’s longevity in the marketplace; and also utilising environmentally sustainable materials in our products and in our buildings.”

A wetter future

Australians demand quality, delivery, cost and service, according to Jagiella, whose impressions of the local market will be fed back to his research and development team at Conducta.

“Australian companies have clear requests, and their technical competence is very high,” Jagiella said. “Australia is an important market to the Endress+Hauser Group and this trip has proved to me that the projects executed by industry here are essential to our business.”

With an increasingly dry landscape, Australian organisations and government bodies will continue to look to technology providers like Endress+Hauser for innovative ways to provide the country with a continual supply of clean drinking water. Jagiella said that the urgency of potable water will increase in the future.

“The global water crisis is becoming more pressing. With over a billion people in China, the problem is growing. This is a challenge for humanity but also a challenge for Endress+Hauser in continuing to develop new products to keep water clean and ensure there is enough not only for now, but also for the future,” he said.

Another avenue in sustainability for Endress+Hauser has been the development of reagent-free analysers using optical technology, which are designed to reduce the use of aggressive chemical reagents and improve analysis accuracy. The company also claims to be at the forefront of various other process technologies to help businesses save energy, lower their maintenance costs and improve operator safety.

One of Conducta’s technological advances is its Memosens connection technology for pH electrodes. Based on inductive signal transmission, the system allows the transfer of digital information between an electrode and a transmitter without the need for an electrical connection. Due to the advantages and cost savings that it offers, the system is poised to become a new industry standard, the company claims.

According to Jagiella, Endress+Hauser functions on a culture of openness and transparency — if it develops an innovation that it believes can benefit the industry, it will make the technology available to the market. “To give our customers more freedom to choose their suppliers, we are even partnering up with some competitors to further develop Memosens and make it a global standard. “ he said.

Conducta won an R&D 100 Award from R&D Magazine in the United States last year for its Middle-Infrared (MIR) Spectrometer — a compact and robust process spectrometer that can be adapted to different processes, is easy to clean, and can be used in hazardous areas. The R&D 100 Awards program rewards the 100 most technically significant new products from around the world each year.

Strategy counts

After two years spent project-managing Conducta’s new production facilities and optimising the company’s internal processes, Jagiella is now focused on spending more one-on-one time with his customers, learning their individual requirements in an increasingly volatile market. But while the global industrial processing industry has been hit hard, Jagiella believes that by sticking to its strategy, Conducta will be able to stay ahead of the pack.

“Any issue can be overcome if you have a good strategy. Our ethos at Endress+Hauser is: if you have a good economy, follow your strategy; if you have a bad economy, follow your strategy!” he said.

Like other major players in the process automation market, Conducta has felt the sting of a slowing economy, but it’s business as usual for the liquid analysers and analysis giant.

“The process industry is affected in various ways from the impact of the struggling car industry,” said Jagiella. “This can be seen in the slowing chemicals processing sector which is responsible for the production of automobile paint and plastics. But we are still going ahead with all of our investments in product development and new facilities. We are even hiring new people for development. When you’re standing up to your neck in water, it’s not a good idea to hang your head down! We are always looking towards the future and we see a lot of potential to grow, even in these challenging times.

“Endress+Hauser’s Australian operation has enjoyed increasing business from the water industry and also from the resource industries like gold and uranium mining. We’re quite lucky to be in the process industry,” he said.

Striving for excellence

The global Endress+Hauser slogan, People for Process Automation, rings true at Conducta, with Jagiella claiming that the most important element of the business is its people.

“If you have motivated people, you can solve any problem,” he said. “We invest two per cent of our personal costs in staff training sessions, including financial, technical and human resources training. We also have a wide range of internal seminars to help keep our staff motivated.”

Conducta and Endress+Hauser as a whole are also as passionate about addressing the future needs of their customers. The company holds customer forums, inviting decision-makers and people at the forefront of process technology applications. The forums allow customers to voice their needs and also brainstorm ideas for future product development. Conducta also harnesses customer feedback received from its 3,000 global sales centre staff and combines this with the results of its customer forums to help set a direction for the research and development team.

Conducta employs 100 people in research and development, and another 400 people in operations and strategic marketing. The business is serious about innovation and strives for market leadership. With investments of more than 15 per cent of its annual sales into research and development, Endress+Hauser is continually driving its staff, and its customers, to be the best they can.

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