Eaton Corp starts media promo campaign

The Eaton Corporation has launched a media campaign, aimed at increasing their profile in the markets outside the USA, which have grown to be far more significant for the group in the last few years. With four events in 2011 the campaign steps up to 14 events in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa) next year, but globally there will be 40-50 events. The “Oil and Gas Technology” day presented at Mercedes-Benz World at the historic Brooklands circuit, a haven of automobile, racing car and aviation history southwest of London, was a combined customer/media event, but being targeted primarily at oil and gas production customers, the presentations did not cover the 38% of the estimated $16Bn 2011 Eaton group total sales from the aerospace, truck and automobile divisions.

Current turnover splits

Back in 2000, 90% of Eaton sales came from the US market, but in a pattern similar to that reported by GE Energy (INSIDER Oct 11 page 11), 55% of sales last year were outside the USA, and for Q2 in 2011 the results showed that 26% of current business has emerged from developing countries. Much of the European business growth and many of the 55 manufacturing sites in Europe have arisen from several acquisitions, notably perhaps that of Delta in 2003, which brought in the MEM (Midlands Electrical Manufacturing) MV and LV businesses serving the petrochemical and utility markets, with major factories in Birmingham and Hengelo. A more recent significant acquisition was of the Moeller Group in 2008, which was then complemented by the purchase of the remaining shares in Micro Innovations AG in 2009. So while $4Bn, or 25% of group sales come from EMEA, the approximate 2011 figures for the Electrical Division in the USA are also $4Bn, Electrical outside the USA, meaning EMEA and Asia Pacific, are at $3Bn or 19% of group total, and Hydraulics Division sales worldwide are also at £3Bn.

“Powering business” includes hydraulics, but HMI systems are growing:

Gardiner Henderson, global director for oil and gas at Eaton, but a relatively new recruit, having joined from a similar role in ABB around five months ago, opened the discussions pointing out that the Eaton logo has been updated to include the phrase “Powering business worldwide”. Henderson explained that Eaton positions itself as a diversified power management company, helping customers to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs, above all by helping to build a reliable infrastructure. The examples quoted of applications and recent Eaton new technology developments laid particular emphasis on the hydraulics business, reinforcing the impression that their catch-phrase is meant to include a significant amount of high power and advanced technology hydraulics.

Frank Campbell, president for EMEA of the electrical sector, balanced this by explaining that he sees the electrical business as split into four sectors, ie power distribution and switchgear, power quality and UPS systems, power control (as in machine tools, motor starters, drives and switches) and the service business, which includes project design and installation, particularly for the developing solar power business. A major task for this service business had been in helping the plants in the southern parts of Louisiana to recover after hurricane Katrina, in particular in the support that Eaton provided to ConocoPhillips to restore their power systems, which led to a major national (US) service contract.

The Moeller acquisition in particular had been beneficial in adding IEC versions of the main product ranges to the Eaton portfolio.  Moeller brought a 50% stake in Micro Innovation AG to Eaton, and this was fairly rapidly converted into a 100% holding in 2009: this brought a stronger involvement with the automation and control market, since Micro Innovation manufactures human machine interfaces, programmable logic controllers and input/output devices – at the acquisition they were employing 80 people, and had had a turnover of £33m in 2008. Currently this product range is said to have expanded to include touch screens, and Eaton has introduced the SmartWire interfacing technology to the USA this year. SmartWire was launched at SPS/IPC/Drives in 2009, and uses an 8 track flat green cable to make a quick, simple link between components and devices within control cabinets or machine tools, and to provide 15V power to devices, and 24V power to contactors: this is able to eliminate the cost and complexity of the interconnection wiring looms and screw terminations within the cabinet. Campbell mentioned that Eaton had formed a collaboration with Phoenix Contact to extend the use of SmartWire to interface to their Contactron motor starter, as announced at Hannover Messe earlier this year, and further such announcements will be made at the SPS 2011 Expo coming up shortly.

Maybe the modest culture is changing?

Henderson explained that Eaton was culturally a modest company, as a reason as to why there previously had been none of the press releases relating to major offshore contract awards and application announcements, that are normal from such companies as ABB and GE Energy. This modest cultural aspect and the similar attitude of the management at Eaton had been the first major factor that made him decide to join the company, but he did imply that the culture was being sharpened up a little, to create the necessary press announcements, which should be expected more frequently in future. Presumably the planned series of technology presentations is another aspect of the more forceful, less modest image planned for Eaton. Incidentally the flashy style of the video presentations used to back up the technology day did not seem to reflect any of the modesty in the company culture!

The second factor that had impressed Henderson when he was considering joining Eaton was their solid range of products and technology, followed closely by the opportunity he could see for these products in the oil and gas market. With no “feel” available from the published material for the existing Eaton footprint for electrical supply systems in the oil and gas market, the major impression was that most of the quoted Eaton applications actually involved hydraulics. True, Campbell had quoted the Salam gas trains for Khalda in Egypt as an application presumably of MV switchgear and maybe the Eaton Flashgard or Arcon LV arc flash prevention systems, and also the manufacture of switch gear and control panels for emergency generators by their Abu Dhabi factory. Henderson had also said that Eaton did indeed compete with ABB in terms of the supply of offshore power supply infrastructure equipment, having the advantage of equipment with a smaller footprint and lower weight, to give effectively a higher power density capability per unit of weight and footprint for offshore applications.

Major hydraulics applications offshore

The hydraulics applications offshore quoted by Henderson included the supply of umbilical lines for delivering and controlling hydraulic power on the sea-bed, and the use of large – up to 65 feet – hydraulic cylinders for stabilising drill decks or other platforms on semi-submersible or floating platforms. Using this form of compensation for deck movement enables platforms to operate in poor weather conditions, where previously operation would not have been possible. For a similar objective, Eaton have developed a special cladding for piston rods, a laser assisted coating technique, appropriately known as Eatonite, which allows a significant increase in the working life of the rod under the bad corrosion conditions found offshore.

Also on display in the associated exhibition was their latest hydraulic hose condition monitoring development, LifeSense, which uses measurement of the electrical resistance of wires embedded in the hose surface, to provide an alarm when the hose has reached the end of its useful life, to enable a change-over before a failure. The interesting comment about this hose monitoring system from the salesman’s point of view was that the presentation to the oil and gas customers had been criticised slightly, for showing the hose monitoring system in application on a rubbish collection cart, rather than an oil rig hydraulic system. More interesting for the salesman was that their plan is to develop LifeSense as a wireless sensor, so that the hose condition could be alarmed direct to the operator’s Blackberry or iPhone. But the response to the inevitable question about an intrinsic safety was equally revealing, after it had been explained that these words related to safety approvals in hazardous areas with potentially explosive atmospheres. Apparently already someone attending the oil and gas technology day had mentioned the word “ATEX” to them, and they were going to have to look at that.

Another corner of the exhibition area was devoted to the new Eaton range of AxisPro proportional control valves for electro-hydraulic axis control applications, which offer CANopen fieldbus communications, on-board temperature and pressure sensors, and a wide range of control capability, up to offering a valve that can be uniquely customized by uploading application code created using Pro-FX control software based on IEC 61131-3 programming. Using the close coupling of this control software in the valve, and adjacent AxisPro slaves, the resulting fast response enables a dynamic bandwidth of 150Hz. One of the major Eaton solenoid and control valve factories is in Havant, in the southern part of Hampshire, UK.


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