From the Top: Q&A with Emerson Process Management's Tom Dick
- By L.K. Williams, EPonline
- Jul 19, 2010
Tom Dick, vice president of Water Automation Solutions for Emerson Process Management, shares his company's success in helping water and wastewater facilities find integrated solutions.
How did you get started in this field? What is your background?
I have an electrical engineering degree from the University of Pittsburgh. I began my career with Westinghouse Electric Corporation in 1974 at the Westinghouse Research Center and spent many years managing and engineering large, complex automation projects while with the company’s Process Control Division. In 1998, Emerson acquired Westinghouse's Process Control Division.
Water professionals face unprecedented challenges. Click to enlarge.
What trends and challenges are you seeing in the industry?
Municipalities have to expend significant resources to rebuild aging infrastructure and modernize water and wastewater treatment facilities. When you factor in increasingly complex environmental and financial regulations, impending security regulations and the realities of an aging and reduced workforce, it is clear that utilities have to be prepared to do more with fewer resources.
What does Water Automation Solutions do?
We offer integrated automation, instrumentation and control solutions that go beyond traditional standalone PLC-based controls to help municipalities and investor-owned utilities reduce costs and more easily comply with regulations. Let me give you an example: Our PlantWeb integrated automation architecture, based on Ovation control and SCADA technology, helps customers
- save energy through pump optimization;
- predict equipment failures;
- monitor the entire water distribution and wastewater collection system from a centralized location; and
- incorporate comprehensive cyber and physical security measures. Many of these were developed in response to the power generation industry’s Critical Infrastructure Protection standards.
Automation decisions impact sustainability. Click image to enlarge.
Our control technologies help protect the environment, too. By ensuring that operating parameters are adjusted according to changing situations, they help prevent the overflow of untreated sewage into waterways during wet weather events. But that’s not all: Asset management software integrated into our control system ensures that critical equipment, such as mechanical equipment, electrical systems, instruments and valves, are operating properly and helping to meet environmental regulations.
What is your company's strength?
There is no question that we have great technology. But more importantly, we have talented people with automation engineering and project management expertise second to none. It’s why some of the world’s largest metro areas – including Detroit, Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and San Diego ─ rely on Emerson to manage their large, complex multi-year automation projects. Because our platform is scalable, many smaller municipalities have realized the benefits of our integrated architecture approach as well.
What are some of your company’s challenges?
Our responsibility is to help our customers understand the importance of taking a strategic, long-term view of their automation requirements. Every automation decision that they make today, no matter how small, will impact their ability to build infrastructure sustainability for the future. Implementing an integrated control architecture as part of a multi-year automation plan will provide municipalities, no matter how large or small, the operational flexibility to build on existing resources as circumstances change.
Who do you consider your competitors?
At times we compete with systems integrators who rely on standalone systems or basic PLC controls. Our ability to integrate a utility’s entire water and wastewater infrastructure, from the treatment plant to the water distribution and wastewater collection systems, sets us apart.
Where do you see your company in the next five years?
We have had consistent double-digit growth in this segment over the past five years. In this economic environment, that says a lot. Although I’m from the operations side, and typically more conservative than my friends in marketing, I’m confident that we can double our growth over the next five years.
L.K. Williams is the Environmental Group Editor of 1105 Media.