The news of Emerson and Siemens working together to “exchange technology that will extend interoperability and end-user benefits” hit the business wire earlier this week.
The reaction among the small but growing band of bloggers in the process automation space soon followed.
AutomationWorld magazine‘s editor-in-chief Gary Mintchell wrote in his Interoperability Propelled post:
In both cases, this means more ability for customers of each to integrate more systems. Definitely a win for the customers. Competitors of each of these companies have long grumbled about them being pretty much closed companies when it comes to working with others. I guess this pretty well shatters some of that thought. Good to see them opening up.
Emerson is known for supporting Foundation Fieldbus (FF) and Siemens will add support for FF to its devices.
Siemens is known for supporting PROFIBUS and PROFINET and Emerson will support those standards in its offerings.
I’d like to make a quick point that Emerson has a longstanding commitment to interoperability. The DeltaV system and many other Emerson products have supported HART, Foundation Fieldbus, OPC, Profibus DP, DeviceNet, AS-i bus, ODBC, XML, web services, and more recently wireless and many other important interoperability standards. A quick look at this fieldbus interoperability video circa 2001 demonstrates this longstanding commitment to interoperability. Also a quick Google search on Interoperability on the EmersonProcess.com site yields quite a few results.
I caught up with Duncan Schleiss, the marketing VP for Emerson’s Process Systems and Solutions business which manages the DeltaV system about this latest announcement. His view is that standards are very important as it gives process manufacturers freedom of choice. The standards must facilitate innovation allowing each supplier to provide increased value to customers. With the innovation flexibility in the standard, the process manufacturer is the clear winner in being able to choose between suppliers yet at the same time being able to select products that have clear differences. It is this innovation that drives technology that improves process manufacturing productivity and adds the most value. So while standards are good, they must endorse and allow innovation.
A final point on difficulty in achieving interoperability from a very good AutomationWorld magazine article by Jim Pinto, entitled The Dichotomy of Open Standards:
End-users continue to ask for interoperability as a means to achieve vendor independence. But that is the exact opposite of what all the primary suppliers want. Standards turn proprietary products into commodities, with lower profit margins.
As Duncan points out, if the standard provides the flexibility to innovate to create value, it is something everyone– both suppliers and end users alike can support.