Automation Internationalisation – Challenges and Chances; an Interview With NAMUR Chairman Wilhelm Otten

Editor: Dr. Jörg Kempf

The times in which one could optimise process developments or regulation in isolation are long past. Nevertheless, there is still obviously a lack of mutual understanding between chemical/process engineers and the colleagues in process automation technology. What is the reason for this, and how can it be changed? NAMUR chairman Wilhelm Otten, leader of business line technology at Evonik Industries, faced this and many further questions by PROCESS—and makes a clear plea for process automation technology.

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(Photos: PROCESS)

PROCESS: Mr. Otten, automation technology is gaining increasing importance in the process industry. How do you hope to make use of this development as the new chairman of NAMUR?

OTTEN: As I have been on the board of NAMUR since 2004, it would be a sign that I had been doing something wrong previously if I now wanted to come up with completely new ideas. In that light, my targets build on the strategy process which we on the board enacted in 2004/2005.

PROCESS:But that was more than seven years ago, and the challenges are changing all the time. So where do you want to set personal accents?

OTTEN: Essentially there are three areas. These begin with internationalisation: both our member firms and our equipment suppliers are active globally. We can therefore only exert a positive influence on technical developments if we likewise take global action. Many large projects are running at the moment in Asia, so the start of our China activities was an extremely important step for us. On the other hand, we are of course an association which lives from its members and their input.


Know Your Strengths...

The strength of NAMUR is namely that we are a relatively large and active group of 40 working teams. Retaining know-how is, because of the demographic development in Germany, the second big challenge and can only be met by improvements in basic and advanced training. At the same time, NAMUR is taking on an increasing number of tasks which were previously carried out by individual member firms themselves. While all chemical enterprises used to have large process automation units, these functional structures do not exist at all in the firms anymore.

These units are now, instead, either process-orientated or tied in to the individual business areas. But this means that a higher-level, functional view, which is very important for the further development of our processes, is lost. Optimising of processes, with the aim of extracting the last ten percent, is the first priority today – going as far as the problem of how we can have variable running of processes.