Opinion: Partnering and acquisition for greater instrumentation range

By Control Engineering Staff June 21, 2007

How many more pressure sensor designs does the world need? I’ve asked myself this question recently in the context of news coming out from well known control system suppliers that are either partnering with specialized instrumentation vendors or buying them outright. You might think that companies like Rockwell, Honeywell, and Siemens might want to create their own product lines from scratch, but do they really need to? Partnering and acquisition prevents re-inventing the wheel, or in this case, re-inventing the flowmeter.

The latest news of a new partnership is between Honeywell Process Solutions and Krohne for the former to offer the latter’s products under a private label agreement. Honeywell will now offer its VersaFlow line, which will be Krohne magnetic, Coriolis, ultrasonic and vortex flowmeters distributed, supported, and serviced though Honeywell’s existing sales channels. This is a major addition to the HPS field device portfolio, which is becoming more critical as wireless instrumentation competition heats up. Krohne retains all its existing distribution but gains a major new selling arm around the world.

“By combining Krohne’s expertise and Honeywell’s global sales and support network, we’re giving our customers exactly what they want—a single source for Level 1 field devices and system solutions,” says Revathi Advaithi, VP, Honeywell Field Solutions.

For other examples of such partnering, consider that earlier this year Rockwell Automation announced a partnership with Endress+Hauser to provide instrumentation as Rockwell promotes its process industry presence.

On the acquisition front, a prime example is Siemens purchase of Controlotron (among others) to fill in a very specific ultrasonic flowmeter shaped gap in its instrumentation offering. This kind of thing is happening all over the instrumentation industry. There is some hand wringing as users fear the loss of innovation given the conventional wisdom that big companies smother creativity. After all, they think, don’t all new and interesting ideas come from small and more agile companies? While there are examples and anecdotes that can be cited from any direction, there will always be avenues for innovation, and even large companies listen to market pressures. Many large companies strongly encourage significant organic growth, invest many R&D dollars, and offer related internal expertise.

—Peter Welander, process industries editor, PWelander@cfemedia.com , Control Engineering Weekly News