Suppliers Revamp Offerings To Meet Industry Needs

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Through implementation of ever-more sophisticated automation and control technologies, chemical plants continue to increase production and quality, slash downtime and more. However, plant-level decision-makers often find it difficult to identify the "ideal" automation and control solution ," and even more challenging to properly implement that solution.

Fortunately, many major automation and control solution providers have been listening to industry concerns, performing "mini makeovers" to their offerings that aim to benefit their customers.

Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation has made "several strategic investments" that will help its life sciences clients, says Charlie Norz, a senior marketing engineer with the company, including the acquisition of Propack Data, a major supplier of enterprise production management systems for the life sciences industry.

Another investment involves the release of the company's Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Optimization and Fill Finish Optimization solutions, says Norz, to speed time to market and ensure regulatory compliance. The company also is developing new platform-independent regulatory compliance services for the sector, he notes, and is addressing process and discrete manufacturing through one control platform ," its integrated architecture. In addition, it is acquiring the rights to technology from SMAR Industrial Equipment Ltd. to enhance this architecture's FOUNDATION Fieldbus capabilities, and is introducing a range of software, support and consulting services.

London-based Invensys plc recently formed a new Production Management Division that includes products from its Wonderware, Foxboro, Baan and other key operating units. According to the company, the organization allows "interoperability throughout the manufacturing function," which "provides the basis for an agile, accelerated supply chain."

Chuck Miller, U.S.-based director of chemical industry marketing for Invensys Process Systems, told Chemical Processing that the new division offers a complete solution. "The industry has been saying: We don't just want point solutions; we want things that integrate with one another and create value,'" says Miller.

Zurich, Switzerland-based ABB also has been working hard to provide additional value to its chemical and petrochemical customers. John D. Wilson, ABB group vice president and head of the company's global Life Sciences and Consumer businesses, says recent changes not only allow ABB to better serve industry, but also to focus on the company's core automation and power technologies businesses.

"First, we developed Industrial IT, which provides increased flexibility and functionality to customers," says Wilson. "Second, we have changed ABB into a customer centric' organization. We have developed a global account structure that provides increased value to our customers, whether they are large or small."

The company now spends more time scrutinizing customer needs, notes Wilson, as well as the activities that are important to them. "The recent changes in ABB will make us a more streamlined and responsive company as a whole," he stresses. "We are able to react quickly to customer needs and changing market conditions."

Cambridge, Mass.-based Aspen Technology (AspenTech) has been working diligently to lay the foundation to provide a true enterprisewide solution for manufacturers.

Rainer Gawlick, vice president, worldwide marketing for AspenTech, says the company wants its individual engineering and manufacturing/supply chain technologies to form the basis of broader enterprise-level solutions that integrate easily with other important IT infrastructure elements such as enterprise resource planning systems. "We have also expanded our service and support capabilities so that we can help our customers implement and maintain these systems more effectively," notes Gawlick.

AspenTech also is working with New York-based Accenture to develop new manufacturing and supply chain solutions for chemical and petroleum manufacturers. The effort represents an expansion of an existing alliance, according to the companies, and the manufacturing solutions largely will be built on AspenTech's existing Plantelligence solution.

ABB also announced a partnership with Accenture that basically marries ABB's Industrial IT to Accenture's "supply chain expertise, business transformation outsourcing skills and network of alliances." Under the joint effort, the companies offer consulting, technology and business transformation solutions to manufacturers.

Ensuring success

These and other industry-focused solutions provide an excellent opportunity for chemical manufacturers to improve production and boost the bottom line. Before selecting a technology or a solution provider, however, a company should identify exactly what it wants to accomplish. And it should be prepared to work very closely with the chosen solution provider throughout all stages of technology implementation.

Eric Cosman, process automation architect for The Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich., says partnerships between manufacturers and suppliers in the automation and control area work best when companies share in both the risks and rewards. "The first thing it takes is an extremely well-written contract," notes Cosman. Every detail of the partnership, no matter how small, should be included in that contract.

All parties involved ," external suppliers, internal automation and control personnel, and the IT department ," must concentrate on establishing and reaching a "common objective," says Cosman, and must be held clearly accountable for their actions. A teamwork approach to automation and control ," one that puts together these seemingly mismatched personnel ," can help a facility implement a solution that not only works well within the plant, but integrates within the larger enterprise.

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