News analysis: GE, Intellution appreciate combined strengths
Foxborough, MA—While the 100-plus-day integration period has ended, there's still a feeling of wonderment among employees about the combination of Intellution and GE Fanuc (Charlottesville, VA)-like a couple of wide-eye youths given the keys to a candy store.
The tone of mutual admiration was reinforced the day the acquisition was final, with an immediate, two-day session bringing together lead personnel from every major functional area, to set goals, establish metrics, and assign deliverables. It began, though, even before the announcement (see related a Control Engineering news items below) when several major customers, under nondisclosure agreements, were consulted about their concerns and visions for such a combination. Correspondence and attention to customer needs continue to be core to the strategy, now that Intellution has became part of the GE Fanuc Global Solutions Business, led by Kevin Roach, GE Fanuc's Global Solutions vp.
Mr. Roach and group members recently toured the message to 14 countries, meeting with Global Solutions Business customers, employees, channel partners, and sales representatives. They outlined the strategy, impact, and brands, and tried to anticipate and answer tough questions. People were most concerned, Mr. Roach said, about the two human-machine interface software products, and if one would replace the other.
"We are continuing our commitment to both products. We bring value to customers daily with iFix and Cimplicity. Every individual is concerned. We're not killing either Cimplicity or iFix, and we remain aggressive about communicating that. Our installed base is our biggest asset. Every day with every decision, if cannot say we're bringing assets forward we will step back, and bring them into harmony with new products."
There's been consistent communications to try to ensure the combined customer base that existing software and hardware investments absolutely will be supported going forward. To that end, Harry Merkin, GE Fanuc Global Solutions' commercial marketing lead, is sending a letter to customers emphasizing that commitment. "Our commitment to protecting customers' investments remains steadfast," says Mr. Merkin.
A methodical migration over time-and there's no rush, they said-will incorporate Six Sigma goals with a process known as "lead user" originated at MIT. The combined process will use the vision of industry experts and customer input to solve problems ahead of market need, incorporating input from "creative customers using products in unique ways." Expect involvement from Dick Morley (father of the PLC); Steve Rubin, Intellution's founder; and key technology representatives from GE and customer organizations. "They'll be working on the ultimate technology roadmap," Mr. Roach says, "with a combined disciplines of Six Sigma, which reduces process variability, and the MIT principles to enhance innovation." Overall, Mr. Roach calls the Intellution acquisition "a buyer's delight," resulting in several quick hits that give customers on each side competitive advantages, almost immediately.
These benefits include making the iHistorian software available to Cimplicity customers, and having options for bundled human-machine interface, hardware-software combined packages available. "Our combined strengths were apparent to customers immediately," Mr. Merkin says.
Beyond that, Intellution and GE Fanuc markets complement each other, as Mr. Roach noted in comments about the acquisition, and reemphasizes now. For instance, Cimplicity software focus has been largely in discrete industries; Intellution has a broad customer base, but has played well in process markets. Both have hoped to expand efforts in software traditionally defined in the manufacturing execution systems (MES) space. Now, Mr. Merkin says, there's critical mass for the combined group to pursue MES expansion to a greater degree.
"Organizational structure is set, but work is never done. We're always looking for ways to improve," Mr. Roach adds. "We had a meeting in December, and it was the only meeting in the world of the No. 1 industrial software company by market share; depth and breadth of product offering; and in its individuals." Seeing 250 people gathered for a subsequent global sales meeting, was a turning point for many to realize the strength of the company's leadership position, Mr. Merkin adds.
People seem enthusiastic about new opportunities, described as a "buzz around the place." Learning opportunities include Intellution staff picking up GE's Six Sigma way of doing things. Fortunately, although the terms differ, much of what Intellution has practiced fits with GE principles. "Rubinization" has served us well through this," explains one Intellution staffer, providing recognition to Mr. Rubin.
Any downside so far?
"We're going to hit 98% of our goals in the first 100 days," says Mr. Roach. Perhaps ironically, a few items related to communication, such as phone connections and network access, came in one to three weeks behind plan, he adds.
There's been the challenge of deciding who does what, when and where. As mentioned, that has been part of the process from the start. "It's not uncommon to have a meeting with people from multiple locations, now," says Mr. Merkin, either in person or via conference calls. The acquisition expanded the unit's reach across three major locations, Charlottesville, VA; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; and Foxborough, MA. Having multiple locations increases the need for communications to emphasize collaborations and combine strengths, when and where it makes sense. Buying power, obviously, has improved with the combined units.
And what's on the upcoming menu? Look for new product combinations, packages, greater customer collaboration and involvement, more attention to specific market needs, and more giving back to customers through continuing educational efforts. Company representatives seem eager to work on upcoming sweet deals.
For related reading, see: "News analysis: GE Fanuc acquires Intellution" www.controleng.com/index.asp
"GE Fanuc buying Intellution from Emerson" www.controleng.com/index.asp
"GE Fanuc Automation completes acquisition of Intellution" www.controleng.com/index.asp
Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief