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‘There is a need to optimise the product roadmap’

Sridar Narayanswami, President, Middle East/Africa, Emerson, in this interview with Surendar Balakrishnan of Climate Control Middle East, speaks on the company’s mint-new psychrometric lab in the Middle East, its stand on refrigerants and on how its IoT-enabled products are permitting more capability on controls and on capturing data that can be converted into insights. Excerpts…

| | Aug 27, 2018 | 10:33 am
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What does the lab look to achieve? Is it to be a neutral lab that would offer services to all manufacturers or would only handle Emerson’s range of products?

Sridar Narayanswami

What we tried to do with the lab is to have the capability, which helps our customer to offer solutions, in turn, to end-users at the macro level. There is a big [emphasis on] energy-efficient solutions in an environmentally friendly way around doing what is right in terms of optimal deployment, in terms of speed to market, given evolving energy regulation and standards and overall competitive advantage. There is a need to optimise the product roadmap. Having the testing capability helps accelerate this process to customers, because we find testing and fine-tuning to be critical steps, where one can have challenges in terms of priorities for some of the key stakeholders in the region.

Could you elaborate on what you mean by challenges?

What I mean by challenges is that you have a number of new products or optimised products that are launched, and you have to queue them up, because everyone has certain lab capabilities and bandwidth that are finite. If you have an external lab capability in the region, you can accelerate speed to market by utilising it. In a scenario, where some of these systems have to go out of the region for testing and then come back, there is a lead time associated with them. We can help cut the lead time short significantly with the capability we have here.

The other part is that often, after we launch systems we want to go back and see whether they are truly optimised or not. We want to see if we have the potential to optimise it further in terms of performance, the components and also the cost. What a lab like this does is that it drills down performance, even to the specific component level, and utilises those inputs to improve, refine or modify to meet your objectives in terms of performance and cost. That’s at the macro level.

Coming back to the question on the neutrality of the lab?

First of, the intent of the lab is to have the ability to support partners. Certification from key standards and bodies is an important priority. The other is to help and join them in seeing how we can develop and optimise their own systems. It is not just about our products but also other components that go into the system and how they play together through the simulation and test capability that we bring.

We have formidable opportunity for people to benefit from that, in terms of medium-term direction. We are still charting that out in terms of how would the lab testing model work; as we speak, we are drafting that out.

We have been engaged with key stakeholders. I mean end-customers, key companies and some standards authorities. [We are in the process of] dialogue and feedback with several of them, before we finalise our plan on how we shall be offering our services in the market.

Are you looking to go beyond R-410a towards a low-GWP refrigerant for your portfolio of products?

The approach we have taken as Emerson is to continue our development, engineering and R&D effort. We generally stay ahead of the curve in terms of adopting next-generation refrigerants. It’s something we have done over the decades, and we continue to do so, moving forward.

What we like to do is to take a position, which says here are the benefits of deployment of certain refrigerants and here could be some tradeoffs and have that dialogue with some of our partners. We have helped several markets, including in this tradition towards more environmentally friendly refrigerants.

So, to that question, are we wanting to move direction or change course, the answer is we are building capabilities to support and enable the market as it gets ready, but also are putting those capabilities ahead of time.

For example, we have a sound range of products that are based on R32 available today out of our plants in Asia, and already being deployed and used by some of our customers in Asia and deployed successfully. And R32 comes with its own advantages, and people are seeing those benefits, and we have the ability to offer it in other markets, as and when it gets ready.

How have you been able to reconcile with flammability concerns associated with R32?

Where we have seen people deploy R32 with products we had offered, we know our partners have taken adequate precautions and care to deploy R-32 in a safe manner. This I mention in the broad context of manufacturers in Asia, not necessarily in the Middle East and other geographies in a more global context.

What is Emerson doing in terms of contributing to improving food safety and reducing food wastage. How closely are you involved with Dubai’s Food Watch programme and the UAE’s Food Bank programme, to cite two examples?

The way I would answer this is that we have been associated with the UAE government and with other governments and governmental bodies in different parts of the world in enabling food safety and food quality. This is one of those, where we continue to be engaged, and we will have a role to play, as certain plans and programmes get on to implementation.

We are seeing a trend at this point in time in the United States of additive manufacturing or 3D printing. Is that a direction to offer customised solutions, or do you think the market is too unregulated at this point in time?

I can only respond to this by saying Emerson has looked at 3D printing and additive manufacturing. We continue to deploy or use these technologies and do leverage them in terms of our development activity. We do see value in what some of these technologies bring in.

Could you talk us through on your IoT-enabled devices?

On the IoT front, we are adding more and more capabilities from being a world class provider of products and devices and components to adding more capability on controls, on capturing data that can be converted into insights. We have several examples and success stories where we worked.

Today, we help remotely monitor over 17,000 retail outlets and supermarkets across the globe. We can monitor energy usage, temperature, humidity, maintenance needs, and whether there are certain display cases where a door is open. We do a lot of that and provide those capabilities as needed. What we deploy are solutions from customers that manage it on their own.

We also have examples, where we offer that service to them of remotely monitoring, enabling and helping manage locations and sites in a better way. We have state-of-the-art technologies on electronics that go together with components that track it. We even have compressors that come with core sense modules.

Based on some of the data that gets captured through them, we can essentially manage from a remote location. We can provide services, where we can know the health of the compressor, and assess and track risk of compressors failing. When it comes to critical cold chain products, it is imperative that the uptime is very high.

It is a fact that no matter how sophisticated a piece of equipment is, if it lands in the hands of an unqualified installer, it’s invariably as good as nothing, because the design intent is not translated to strong performance across the lifecycle of a project. What leadership are you giving to ensure that the best equipment is also given the best treatment in terms of installation, testing & commissioning and O&M across the lifecycle of a building?

This is a great question and one of the key areas we focused on through our infrastructure of training centres and qualified application engineering people who can support deployment of technologies in projects and in greenfield requirements. The training infrastructure we created is well received.

The purpose is to provide hands-on training, where people come in. We cover refrigeration or air conditioning basics. We train on how do you do a gas charge, what happens if you overcharge gas and what happens if you undersize a valve, to name just a few practical examples.

We are also available to support on critical location and sites, especially in multi-site requirements. We provide support to make sure all the right practices are being used, and we also document the right practices so that everyone has the right practices.


Surendar Balakrishnan is the Editor of Climate Control Middle East magazine, and Co-Founder and Editorial Director of CPI Industry. He may be contacted at surendar@cpi-industry.com

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