Focused on the Future

At Emerson, a major restructuring has resulted in crucial technological progress—with legal playing an integral role

As the rate of technological progress gains momentum across all industries, the adage of working smarter rather than harder seems to have taken on a new meaning.

These days, we don’t just conceive of smarter processes. We conceive of smarter everything—from machines that communicate with one another to meters that broadcast data in real time. And one industry leader is capitalizing on the flood of innovation and information in industrial, residential, and commercial markets.

Emerson has been an industry leader for more than a century, offering products and services that to this day range from factory valves and automation software to in-home thermostats and air conditioner compressors. Built on a foundation of big-time acquisitions, the company recently underwent a major restructuring aimed at prioritizing automation and supporting the modern marketplace.

“We believe the future involves figuring out what to do with all of the information sent out by all of these new devices,” explains Vanessa McKenzie, Emerson’s vice president, M&A group leader. “How do customers use that information? How do we help them utilize the data more efficiently? That’s what we’re excited about. That’s where all of this is heading.”

A self-starter and proud mother, McKenzie has been with Emerson since 2010, serving as assistant general counsel and then platform general counsel before stepping confidently into the role of vice president of M&A some five years later. Since beginning her new post, she has been integral to numerous market-moving deals, including the $4 billion divestiture of Network Power in 2016 and the $3.15 billion acquisition of Valves & Controls from Pentair that closed this year. These deals, in tandem with other major moves made over the course of the past three years, have shifted Emerson from five platforms—Process Management, Industrial Automation, Network Power, Climate Technologies, and Commercial/Residential Solutions—to two all-encompassing, future-focused platforms: Automation Solutions and Commercial & Residential Solutions.

To make this transformation a success, McKenzie and her team had to accomplish some heavy lifting, closing on deals that spanned offices and manufacturers in more than sixty-five countries. When all was said and done, Emerson emerged with a fresh take on what’s possible for businesses and at-home customers alike.

“We are trying to help our customers figure out how to better use products across their enterprise,” McKenzie says. “We help them to control and operate their processes, and whether that process relates to oil or gas or air or temperature control, we help control it at both a product and analytic level.”

What was once the art of selling well-made parts and machines has now evolved into the art of selling well-spoken ones. And when these machines speak, they sing. Once they start singing, they sing in the key of real-time data.

“Today’s evolution takes the product-focused level and expands to the enterprise and planning stage, encompassing predictive diagnosis, analytics, and production functions,” McKenzie explains. “With our tools, companies can actually see what’s happening remotely and make better, more informed decisions over time.”

One such example of Emerson’s smart parts at work is Plantweb. Best described as a digital ecosystem, Plantweb assists manufacturing enterprises by capturing raw data to then display in a clean, visual interface. This interface is viewable on a number of platforms, therefore allowing remote parties to gain access to essential data in real time.

In the HVAC industry, Emerson also modified its offering of compressors and thermostats with smartphone-ready products such as HVAC system monitoring, which utilizes big data to detect and anticipate issues ranging from equipment failures to energy inefficiencies. Riding the crest of the wave of progress, the Sensi smart thermostat boasts future-ready functionality, including voice-activation, as well as clean, touch-screen interactivity, courtesy of Sensi’s accessible app interface. In addition, the Sensi thermostat integrates with the smart home platforms Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Wink.

“When we introduced the Sensi thermostat just three years ago, we knew that our industry-leading position in HVAC controls, combined with our expertise in system connectivity, would enable us to develop a superior product,” says Robert T. Sharp, executive president of Emerson Commercial and Residential Solutions in a recent communication.

“Everyone that I work with is smart and challenges one another to ensure they are providing the best solutions. Emerson is not just about marketing materials. We live by and deliver on what we promise,” says McKenzie, who likewise expresses enthusiasm for the way Emerson keeps tabs of not only business metrics, but also the individual. “While complimenting me on a job well done for closing our triad of major deals, one of our senior executives reminded me how important family is when he said, ‘You are a good mom.’ His comment made me realize that, at Emerson, I can continue to spend quality time with my daughter and still be considered a top performer.”

With executives such as McKenzie and her team leading the way, it appears that Emerson is well-positioned to help both commercial and residential customers achieve their efficiency goals. Whether by way of providing premium products or by assisting teams with analytics and forecasting, they have all the modern tools necessary to get the job done.