Note:Honeywell Process Solutions recently wrapped up its 33rd annual Americas Users Group Symposium in Phoenix.
Q: What challenges are process manufacturers facing?
A: Improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions has never been more important across all global industries, and the process industries are no different. These topics have become a bigger part of our customer gatherings around the world. For our customers, the energy challenge is three-fold: first, environmental regulations are becoming more stringent. Secondly, many customers are trying to upgrade older, less-efficient technology. And third, they're coping with all of this while constantly being told to increase production. Many of them are asking themselves: "How do I meet and maintain environmental regulation compliance AND become more energy efficient AND improve business performance?"
We are helping industrial manufacturers purchase and produce energy economically and efficiently, prioritize energy usage, improve process efficiency and streamline emission monitoring and reporting. At our event, customers reported they had reduced energy consumption between 1% to 10%, which can be huge savings, by using our solutions. Company-wide, we estimate the global economy could operate on 25% less energy just by using existing Honeywell technologies.
Q: What are they excited or optimistic about?
A: Wireless is changing the way our customers think about manufacturing. According to a 2008 ARC Advisory Group study, wireless for process manufacturing is projected to grow 32% annually through 2012. Process manufacturers have been asking for wireless networks that can handle thousands of wireless devices in a plant: transmitters, meters, sensors, hand-held devices and countless others. Needing to have a separate wireless network for each kind of device is an expensive and cumbersome proposition.
This year, we announced the first wireless network that is ISA100.11a ready. ISA100.11a is an emerging universal communications protocol that is designed to accommodate all industry protocols. This means customers can use a single wireless network that not only accommodates thousands of devices, but it can speak the languages of standard industry communication protocols. Let's face it: no one standardizes on one communications protocol in their plant.
Q: Previously, you stated that process manufacturers need to find ways to reduce energy use and emissions, even as they are driving business performance to ever higher levels. Are your customers tuned into this need? Did you see signs during the event that they are investing in technologies that improve energy and efficiency?
For instance, a manufacturing execution system manages process steps and can track and report multiple sources of energy usage. This data can be used to streamline the process and implement a single energy management program. Advanced process control and optimization applications can help manufacturers minimize fuel and other energy costs associated with production while maximizing throughput. And many of our customers that use our process simulation tools to help train operators can also model applications such as heat integration systems and boiler feed water circuits to determine energy targets for maximum efficiency in operations.
Q: How does bringing a large number of customers together year after year influence Honeywell technology? What other ways does Honeywell gather input and insights from its customers?
A: It's a pretty simple premise: If a vendor doesn't listen to its customers, neither the vendor's business nor the customers' will be successful. Vendors should establish formal, in-depth processes to capture the voice of their customers and truly determine if the technology they're creating is helping to maximize business performance.
Honeywell's user group symposiums -- we have as many as six at various locations around the world each year -- are an opportunity for our customers to share their success stories with each other and exchange best practices for realizing the full benefits of their process control systems. But it's also a forum for Honeywell staff to interact with those customers and listen to their feedback about how our products are working for them and what could be working better. We take that feedback very seriously. In addition to our users groups, we also have 13 customer advisory boards that exist solely to drive improvements in our most widely used solutions. The advisory boards have been instrumental in developing and enhancing these technologies. The Users Input Subcommittee has recommended 137 enhancements to Honeywell systems and solutions since it was established in 1993. Also, we just created a new on-line user forum called Let's Talk Process Control. This provides end-users with the opportunity to influence Honeywell's roadmap in a cost-effective way for their companies.
Q: Innovation was one of the key themes at this year's symposium. What is Honeywell doing within its own walls to foster innovation that ultimately benefits customers?
A: The innovation process involves many steps, from identifying customer needs, to designing a product that brings value to the customer's business and then delivering that product to the marketplace. Honeywell's philosophy is to efficiently manage that innovation process from end-to-end. We do a lot of listening to gain an intimate understanding of our customers' economics and how our solutions impact those economics. Events like our users group, as well as our customer advisory boards, are designed to capture the customer's voice and help us better understand the challenges they're facing. From that point, we take action by integrating every aspect from engineering to marketing into the product development process.
A good example of this innovation process involves our Experion process automation and control system. We have an Experion customer advisory board that meets regularly with product marketing and technology departments. This board was very vocal in communicating needs for system cyber security. We listened to those concerns, put our heads together and designed a solution that integrated cyber security measures directly into the controller. Since then, Experion has been widely praised and recognized with awards for its ability to protect a plant's process control networks from cyber threats.
Jack Bolick is President of Honeywell Process Solutions. Honeywell Process Solutions is part of Honeywell's Automation and Control Solutions group. The company provide product and service solutions that improve efficiency and profitability, support regulatory compliance, and maintain safe, comfortable environments in homes, buildings and industry. http://hpsweb.honeywell.com/Cultures/en-US/