Who is the next automation and control thought leader?

The following was the lead article in the INSIDER Newsletter for June 2013, written as a result of the recent news from ABB that their ceo Joe Hogan and their chief technology officer are both to leave the company.

The days of the technology based entrepreneur who starts a major automation business are long gone*. But seemingly the days of the company ceo that came from the same mould seem to be fading, as the larger businesses maybe move towards faster turnover of their ceo post, and introduces a stronger finance bias. Over the last five years or so there have been notable automation leaders as chief executives, who combined the financial knowledge with great presentation skills, and a willingness to explain their business insights and drivers. After all, that is what makes the best texts for the INSIDER. Who do we look to now for such leadership?

So who are the other leaders?

So where are we with the other automation thought leaders that have driven the industry forwards over the last five years – or longer – and have now moved on? Some of those discussed in this issue are detailed below.

For ABB, there was Joe Hogan from 2008, and he was supported by an equally impressive chief technology officer, or cto, in Peter Terwiesch, from 2005 to 2011, and now heads up ABB in Germany as the ceo there. ABB is based in Switzerland.

The Invensys Group

In Invensys there was Sudipta Bhattacharya, who joined Invensys Operations Management from SAP, coming in as ceo in 2007, and left in September 2012. In his time his Invensys Group boss had the twin responsibilities of Invensys Rail and IOM, so maybe did not take the centre stage as much as has happened in the last year, when Group ceo Wayne Edmunds has taken most of the limelight, and the IOM ceo of the last 18 months, Mike Caliel, has not had much opportunity to step forward. Edmunds is a pure financier in his approach, and as reported this month, he is looking to simplify the group presentations. Hopefully there will be an opportunity for Caliel to come forward therefore, and reclaim some of the ground he had taken as an automation leader in his first stint with Invensys, from 1993 to 2006, when he ended up as ceo of Invensys Process Systems.

The equivalent at IOM of a cto would seem to be Dr Peter Martin, who started there with Foxboro marketing in 1996 and now leads what is best described maybe as their overall automation business software consultancy operations. IOM call him vp of ‘Business Value Solutions’: he authored the 2011 capital market day presentations, and it will be interesting next month to report on the 2013 version.

Invensys is a UK Group, financed and led from London: but IOM and Mike Caliel are based in Houston.

Honeywell Process Solutions

Norm Gilsdorf, after four years with Honeywell UOP, took over first as vp and gm for HPS in Europe in 2008, and then had three years in charge of HPS worldwide. He moved on a year ago to become the president of HPS high growth regional business in Russia and the Middle East area, when Darius Adamczyk from another Honeywell business came in to run HPS.

HPS is a USA-centric business, which made it interesting that Gilsdorf remained based in the UK offices, and externally showed no problem as a result. Significantly one of the questions Adamczyk chose to answer on a recent webinar was one that enquired how him being based in the USA had changed the business! Hopefully Adamczyk will progress to more technologically challenging questions soon, and maybe bring some coherence to the whole diverse operation.

Within HPS, the cto, and leader of several adventurous technical presentations is Jason Urso in the USA, also supported ably by Jean-Marie Alliet, whose real title is the director of solutions consultants for the EMEA, based in Belgium. Notably Alliet has no problem branching out and covering hardware as well.

Who would be your thought leader?

The next batch of candidates to re-consider will be reviewed next month, but must include the recent changes in the leadership at E+H, Emerson Process Management and Yokogawa: but with nothing significant to report as yet on any changes at GE, Siemens, Metso and Rockwell Automation, who will be the thought leader to watch? Answers please, on a postcard, as they say!

There is one comment applicable to ABB, Invensys and Honeywell: their business is not just based on software (thank goodness) nor on DCS systems: there are many other aspects to an automation capability, mainly based on instrumentation technology, and these must be built into the structure – don’t forget the names that still exist, like Foxboro, Eurotherm, Eckardt for Invensys, Enraf, RMG for Honeywell: of course ABB have killed all their old business names off!

*Note: The days of the technology based entrepreneur who starts a good specialist business in the automation field are still with us however, there are examples all around like Dust Networks, Eric Byres and Tofino Security, and maybe even the original Processingtalk.com (now defunct). But usually these are snapped up by other larger companies when they become recognized, to develop them further or to kill them off. Recent such acquisitions might be seen as SpectraSensors, and the acquisition featured this month, RAE Systems.

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