Eaton dedicates new innovation, engineering center

Electrical reliability, efficiency, and safety were key points of emphasis during a Jan. 9 ribbon cutting, tour, and lunch for Eaton employees, media, and other selected guests at the new Menomonee Falls Innovation Center. See photo gallery and video clip, below. Updated Jan. 16.

By Mark T. Hoske January 14, 2013

Electrical reliability, efficiency, and safety were key points of emphasis at a ribbon cutting, tour, time capsule opening, and lunch for Eaton employees, media, and other selected guests at the new Eaton Menomonee Falls facility on Jan. 9. The 104,000-sq-ft sales, marketing, engineering, research and development, and training facility is a showcase for thousands of Eaton (NYSE: ETN) products, in demonstration areas and throughout the facility. The two-story structure has 184 employees and room for more. An application for U.S. Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification is pending. The new facility replaces an older, less-efficient, seven-story building on 27th Street in Milwaukee, Wis.

“This facility is a recruiting tool for us to help attract and retain talent. We have a lot of excited people who love this kind of work,” explained Brian Carlson, engineering director, Eaton Industrial Control Division.

Alexander (Sandy) M. Cutler, chairman and CEO, as part of the ribbon-cutting comments before lunch, said the design reflects Eaton’s efforts to emphasize electrical reliability, energy efficiency, and safety, as it provides innovative products and services to its markets. “We provide safe, productive, energy-efficient innovation. We’re large, diverse and capable global company that’s not going to forget its history and is excited about the future. We expect big things from this site,” Cutler noted.

Change is a matter of course for Eaton lately. The company’s 100th anniversary was celebrated in 2011. On Nov. 30, 2012, its $13 billion Cooper Industries acquisition was final. While Eaton’s Cooper engineers also have toured the new facility, joint product development isn’t yet underway for the $21.5 billion combined company (2011 revenue), now with 100,000 employees. Integration is expected to take 24-36 months.

To accommodate research and test labs, the new building (just outside of Milwaukee) has 16 million volt-ampere (16 MVA) service, sufficient for approximately 4 million sq ft of typical office space. Energy-saving features include regeneration capability to capture braking energy from large motors under test, a rooftop solar array, and advanced lighting and building controls – all of which rely on advanced Eaton technologies. It includes an EMC facility, an industrialization lab, product integrity center, model shop with 3D printer, tool room, reliability lab, shock and vibration lab, dyne lab, HALT (highly accelerated lifecycle testing) lab, solar lab, and more than 120 miles of wire.

Near the training area a demonstration wall features a small sampling of Eaton products, each grouping with a pushbutton that lights up which industries use those products, such as pushbuttons and e-stops, motor control centers, motor starters, variable frequency drives, among others.

– Mark T. Hoske, content manager CFE Media, Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, and Consulting-Specifying Engineer,

ONLINE extra 

Information below offer more information than the January 2013 print/digital edition article. See also more photos below and the video link, (Flash required) at top.

History, future

Many of the same Eaton Milwaukee-area employees celebrating at the lunch and dedication also helped sort through a July 2010 flood, which provided a pre-cleaning opportunity for the move, completed in November 2012.

Materials found in that process, for the 100th anniversary, and for the move helped in creating several historical displays in the new facility, showing heritage products, manuals, and photos from the company, with roots dating from 1899. At the Jan. 9 dedication, contents of a 1964 time capsule were shared with employees.

Engineering innovation ecosystems

Brian Carlson, director of engineering, Eaton Industrial Control Division, and Christopher J. Roche, vice president, Innovation Center, Corporate Technology at Eaton, provided additional information about the new building and Eaton.

Roche’s responsibilities include overseeing 138 technologists in eight Eaton Innovation Centers globally—four in the U.S. (including Menomonee Falls), one in India, two in China, and one in the Czech Republic—all co-located with businesses and engineering expertise. Ecosystems are set up with university relationships, with strong Eaton investments at the pressure points of all company businesses, he said.

“It’s not enough to do R&D. We want to monetize valuable novelty, feeding innovative products to businesses to provide value to customers,” Roche said.

Carlson, who has a background in automotive and automation areas, said that more than 70 engineering personnel at Menomonee Falls work on Eaton power control and power protection, with a solid-state focus. He also oversees engineering personnel in China, India, Dominican Republic, and Washington State. “There’s a lot of leveraging that goes around as we support a large product and services portfolio.”

Roche noted that Eaton Innovation Centers cover the full breadth of Eaton businesses—electrical, industrial control, hydraulics, and aerospace, including power systems, advanced mechanical systems, material fluids, chemistries and coatings, and nanotechnologies.

“We work hand-in-hand with businesses and technology roadmaps. We have an ideation process to talk about big ideas and future trends throughout Eaton, including design and solution blitzes to solve customer challenges. We also have internal mechanisms and review procedures to talk about progress every quarter with Research and Technology, to help understand and communicate where we’re going and how to address problems.”

Co-locating Eaton Innovation Centers with businesses provides value. Carlson said, “Here, we walk down the hall and have a deep discussions with subject matter experts.” Other benefits include close involvement in technology and product roadmaps, marketing and sales summits, sales and marketing, sales engineering, and use of tele-presence equipment to augment face-to-face meetings. More than 20 facilities have video conferencing globally, which helps, since most big programs are global in nature, Carlson said.

Roche said, “A small percentage of what we do might be adjacent or transformational technologies, but most are advanced technologies for customers, businesses, original equipment manufacturers, and end users. We don’t innovate in a vacuum.” Eaton works closely with customers to help with power management solutions. Technologies underway, but not yet commercial, include those involving higher power density and reliable power, but “we’re not necessarily inventing our own silicon. We work with device manufacturers and see how new offerings apply to us to advance cost and performance goals.” Other technology discoveries look at fundamental science to determine relevance of technologies over time, whether matured or disruptive. Efforts continue to get certain technologies ready, prove their practicality, then productize them, Roche explained.

“Innovating is about collaborating,” Roche said, “not sitting at a desk, figuring in a vacuum. At the end of the day, our technologies have a lot more synergies than might immediately come to mind. The free flow of information is important. It’s OK to listen. We don’t call it eavesdropping. Walk down the hall and have that discussion.”

A recent Eaton Innovation Summit connected 138 people. An aerospace discussion connected 18 locations and 50 people globally. “Eaton Innovation Centers build cohesiveness in a region for that region to serve regional markets and make the best use of technologies for our products. No single area has a monopoly on intellectual capital. We must be world class at innovating product management globally,” Roche said.

Recent, future innovations

Many products have unique feature sets, Carlson said. “It’s our mission to bring out new products organically. There are many in the pipeline. Power protection products have a rich feature set with industry-leading package size, soft starters include enhanced communications capabilities, and the S611 soft starter was introduced for the construction market. Product introductions require innovation and differentiation, with technologies to enable that.”Recent and future innovations cover the full breadth of markets, Roche suggested. These include the UPS family of products a control algorithm developed to support to contracts in the Asia-Pacific region. In China, Eaton introduced advances in hydraulics useful for that region’s marketplace.

Innovation Centers are not considered a profit center, but they receive significant investments and return value, Roche said. “We work very closely with businesses to find avenues to open innovation,” Roche said, including U.S. Department of Energy and DARPA, in areas of sustainability and energy efficiency. Eaton businesses also invest in specific technologies and measure the progression of technology use, considering corporate and internal stakeholders, market, viability analysis, research results, and reviews from external experts on technology viability. “We cannot control what don’t measure,” he said.

Carlson said, “We do have objectives and strategies long-term to get to the revenue numbers we want,” though both Carlson and Roche declined sharing specific metrics.

Roche added, “We’re very excited about the future, our leadership, and the promise Eaton has. We have a fabulous opportunity to lead and contribute to the industries we serve. I feel privileged to do what I’m doing. Technologies need to provide solutions to the world’s challenges.”

Learn more from Control Engineering and Eaton in a series of two educational videos, “Lean Thinking for Manufacturing and Automation” and “Pump Control.”

Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.