Automation User Conference Yokogawa User Conference in Berlin: A Tradition of Innovation

Author / Editor: Gerd Kielburger* / Dominik Stephan

The slogan “The Power of Innovation” set the course for Yokogawa’s seventh European user conference in Berlin, Germany. – The Japanese process automation specialist had invited delegates from customer branches and business partners to discuss topics from functional safety, wireless, safety & security and energy management right through to the use of augmented reality for maintenance and repair. But the host company found room to address critical points.

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(Bild: JiSign – Fotolia)

Identifying trends, discussing problems and promoting technologies — conventions have become an established forum for automation companies. At Yokogawa’s 2014 user conference in Berlin, the theme “The Power of Innovation” was seen as both chance and obligation: More than 180 delegates had registered for the event, where they learned of new development trends as well as of the Japanese company’s plans for its European subsidiary. Which roadmap will Yokogawa follow to win customer appreciation — especially for its platform technology?

At the same time, the event reminded of a crowdsourcing platform for the development of Yokogawa products — a view that was shared by Robert Ytsma of the Dutch firm Kisuma Chemicals, who chaired this year’s user convention. As such, it was an important event for the enterprise, which celebrates its centenary in next year and has always been defined to a great extent by product and technology innovations, as emphasized by the high-carat management who travelled to the event.


Increasing Market Share

The management also adopted a frank and forthright stance to trade press questions. Herman van den Berg, President of Yokogawa Europe, put matters bluntly to the surprise of his listeners: “Our current market share figures are far from meeting our expectations and there are industries in which our position leaves a lot to be desired,” he said. The Japanese parent firm evidently sees challenges to growth in the European market and, first and foremost, in the German market.

Given the clear message and the call to increase market share, however, Yokogawa could as well emphasise other sectors, such as energy, cement, paper and even food. The main focus will be on energy management, with plans to win more ground in the different applications, Yokogawa confirmed.

Having set up a new Solution Service unit, the aims are to step up engineering and maintenance services in addition to energy management services and to offer services throughout the whole life cycle as well as in process analytics or advanced process control.

Team Up for Future Growth

Another objective is to encourage growth through strategic partnerships: Therefor, van den Berg announced a deal with Norwegian company Gas Secure for the distribution of gas detectors based on the wireless standard ISA100. This partnership will enable Yokogawa to extend its range of products and wireless solutions for field devices and to offer its customers greater support for applications in healthcare, security and environmental protection. In return, the Norwegians will gain access to Yokogawa’s global sales and after-sales service network. Yokogawa has developed a series of technologies and devices conforming to the ISA100 wireless standard, such as wireless adapters, which are used to connect conventional wired units to wireless networks that could complement Gas Secure’s portfolio nicely.

Consumerization as a Trend

Yokogawa has identified “consumerization” as a major trend in the process industry: Since the rise of the internet, products from the consumer sector like mobile devices have been entering the industrial world. Keen to keep up with the development, the company initiated application tests of an iMaintain tablet together with CF Carbons, a subsidiary of Akzo Nobel, at a site in Germany.

The Android-based iMaintain tablet can be linked to Yokogawa’s process control system to provide the maintenance staff on site with additional information (like trend graphs, alarms, process data, operating instructions, etc.) — information, which they would otherwise have to get from colleagues in the control room or which would only be accessible through interfaces.

The issue of IT security that comes with mobile devices and wireless technology was the subject of several presentations by Wurldtech, Shell and Cisco. The most significant realization, one which should come as no surprise, is that clear rules are needed in connection with IT security, but that any such rules are all too often flouted in practice. Many users were repeatedly found to disregard basic rules, often claiming to have carried out a backup and restore process when asked, even though this was not true. This is no way to ensure security, the sobering verdict of one Wurldtech speaker concluded.

Shell manager Tyler Williams and Greg Carter of Cisco then took to the floor for a joint presentation, explaining the approach they are taking at Shell based on Secure Ops, developed by Yokogawa and Cisco. Adopting the approach developed in the cooperation, Shell has plans to set its own standards in future involving all Shell suppliers. Even if Yokogawa and Cisco were to manage the system, other process automation specialists would not be excluded.