Running a Complex Global Supply Chain, and the Company’s Commitment to Engineering Excellence
When a brand can hit over a hundred years of business in the relatively young U.S., it speaks volumes of the quality and adaptability of the company. Emerson, a diversified global manufacturing company, was founded in 1890, bringing an impressive 125 years of service to their clients.
Since its humble beginnings as The Emerson Electric Manufacturing Company in St. Louis, Missouri, the brand has expanded time and time again to conform to the needs of its customers and the wants of its owners and leaders. Emerson Process Management, founded in the 1990s from a combination of acquisitions, is one of the platforms under the Emerson corporate brand.
“Emerson Process Management evolved from the acquisitions of several different businesses,” shared Ramon Gonzalez, Vice President of Global Supply Chain for Emerson Process Management.
“Combining under one platform was done to better serve our customers. In the 1970s and 1980s Emerson began acquiring companies in the process automation space—notably Rosemount Inc., Rosemount Analytical Inc., Micro Motion, and Fisher Controls. The brand reached a point where it just made sense to establish an over brand, Emerson Process Management, and product sub-brands to oversee everything in this market.”
From Rosemount Measurement and Analytical (high-performance instruments for measuring pressure, temperature, level, and flow) to Power & Water Solutions (technology and expertise for the power, water, and wastewater industries) to Fisher Valves (highly reliable final control technologies) and Micro Motion (Coriolis flow and density instruments), Emerson Process Management acquired high-performing companies and made them even more efficient and productive through Emerson’s disciplined planning processes.
With a passion for solving its customers’ problems, this developer and provider of hi-tech instrumentation devices, regulators and valves, and systems has been successful for much of its history by staying on top of what its customers need.
No one knows this better than Gonzalez, a veteran of the company who was able to give us an inside look at how Emerson Process Management’s global supply chain has been providing competitive and quality solutions for decades.
Establishing a Mutually Beneficial Supplier Relationship
For Emerson Process Management to be world-class leaders in its manufacturing market, its partners and suppliers must also be at the top of their respective games. Emerson expects a great deal from its partners, and for that reason the company is very selective of who they work with.
“We ask a lot of our suppliers,” said Gonzalez. “But if they can perform to the level we need them to, Emerson Process Management will give them more business. It’s a win-win.”
A supplier must meet Emerson’s stringent requirements for excellence in safety and quality in order to be considered a long-term partner. Many of the parts and components the company requires are not easy to make, so rigorous quality checks must be in place. But as Gonzalez told us, suppliers are not just a business transaction for Emerson, they are each a strategic partner that makes the whole of Emerson Process Management stronger by their involvement with the company. After all, good suppliers are a competitive advantage.
A close relationship between company and parts and service providers is necessary specifically for Emerson Process Management because of the complicated manufacturing processes and intricate end products required. The better the parts provider understands the company’s requirements and how it operates, the better they can fulfill and exceed the company’s expectations.
“Some of our relationships with suppliers are decades old,” shared Gonzalez. “We have great suppliers who create great products at great speed.”
“The key is that we don’t just treat them as vendors. We want our suppliers to be successful, but we also need them to be successful.”
Commitment to Supplier Relations
With mutual interests in success comes mutual benefits for both parties. The partnership extends far beyond the supply and demand of a product: Gonzalez shared that there have been instances when Emerson has worked with a handful of great suppliers on project development.
“I love when companies are willing to put in the extra effort to work with us, not just for us,” Gonzalez said.
Even when the ever-expanding company moves to a new location, sometimes an integral supplier would follow.
“As we look to have suppliers closer to our factories so that they can provide better lead times, some key suppliers have decided to go with us,” Gonzalez said. “They have opened warehouses, manufacturing locations, and bought local suppliers so that they can still support us even in a new world area for them. American suppliers have opened locations in Russia and China to support us. Some European suppliers have opened facilities in Singapore. Malaysian suppliers in the U.S. and Indian suppliers in Germany—our loyal suppliers are key to our success.”
Fastenal, the largest fastener distributor in North America, was one such company willing and able to expand geographically.
“Fastenal is a large company we work with—they sell to many platforms in Emerson. They supported us through the opening of one of our new factories by opening a distribution center near the new location because Emerson needed them.”
Although moving a business, particularly moving a business overseas, can be difficult, the supplier has the guaranteed business of Emerson from the get-go. And without the commitment of these suppliers that are willing to go above and beyond for one of their clients, Emerson Process Management would potentially have to find new suppliers, a difficult task during the opening of a new facility.
The relationship between supplier and Emerson Process Management can even extend beyond providing new business in a different locale, with Emerson offering several helpful services to their partners if the need is there. A parts provider may put out a great product, but have inefficiencies. When this happens, Emerson—experts in lean management—will offer to find a solution with them.
Although—not required by everyone—some suppliers understand that with Emerson’s assistance, they can put out a better project faster, and fulfill not only Emerson Process Management’s needs better, but their other clients’ needs better as well.
In the cases where the supplier is interested, Emerson will send its own employees to assess where inefficiencies are occurring; often they are looking to improve speed and lower waste.
“We have been fortunate to have suppliers that understand their limitations, and are eager to continuously improve, as is Emerson,” said Gonzalez.
“We have worked with suppliers when we have had concerns on quality, delivery, lead time, or when we see they can do so much more.
“We have offered expertise from Emerson and training for them on Six Sigma and quality tools in general. We have even helped them improve their internal safety programs to ensure they can track safety and provide appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) as a basic requirement. Due to these improvements, Emerson has been able to offer them more business, and in the majority of cases they have secured more business from other customers as well.”
Collaboration is strong between supplier and Emerson Process Management at all levels: the business makes an effort to get to know not just the supply chain workers but also its partners’ owners, presidents, and CEOs.
“Benchmark is another strategic supplier that sells products to many platforms. They are a great supplier. They have supported us from many factories around the world. Our CEO knows their CEO. The key is always working on the relationship. There’s always room to improve,” said Gonzalez.
Establishing New Locations
Emerson Process Management approaches the establishment of a new location in a few different ways. The company is always looking for ways to get closer to its customers so it can serve them better and faster, helping Emerson be a company that customers find easy to do business with.
One way to accomplish this is to invest in a manufacturing facility close to its customers.
“We look for strategic locations where we currently do not have a location or do not have enough of a presence based on amount of customers or business,” Gonzalez shared. “Since we cannot establish factories in every country, we also look at centrally located countries in a particular world area, countries with good logistics that make it easy to move product in and out of.”
Emerson Process Management’s Singapore location is centrally located for Southeast Asia and offers excellent logistics.
“Due to customs or other logistics issues, some countries are hard to go in and out of or it takes longer. In these instances we add factories or distribution sites to support those customers with fast deliveries, like India or Brazil locations.”
Another way Emerson Process Management establishes new locations is to place service centers near its customers to support them with service of current product, installation, training, spare parts, or the like. The company prefers to have sales offices, service and support teams near customers as well.
In some countries Emerson Process Management has all of the above, while some countries have only one or a mixture. In some countries the company also has one or all of the above in sites that are shared by Emerson Process Management and some of its business units, to leverage on the location and on the people expertise to support common customers.
Managing a Global Supply Chain
The reason for such strong supplier relationships is obviously to create a better product, but it’s also to make life a little easier on Emerson Process Management’s supply chain team. As a company with a huge global presence, its supply chain is equally large and complex.
There are several challenges to running a global supply chain. For instance, many suppliers are at different maturity levels. And with 11 companies under Emerson Process Management, the requirements from one of its companies to the next are different, but many times they require goods and services from the same supplier.
“This is why it is so important to maintain good relationships and have open levels of communication at every level,” shared Gonzalez.
Regionalization also poses a challenge, as suppliers need to be as close to Emerson Process Management’s factories as possible. Sometimes, as mentioned previously, suppliers can set up shop nearby, but that is not always the reality. Finding new suppliers then becomes necessary.
“We track how regionalized our supply chain is,” said Gonzalez. “We measure how much of our factories’ spending comes from within their world area and from outside.
The more regionalized our suppliers are, the more our factories benefit by being able to have fast and frequent deliveries from our suppliers so we can in turn provide fast deliveries to our customers.
“If we have factories or a world area with low regionalization, we work on finding new suppliers near our factories, even if this means developing suppliers in the area that might not be up to our standards. Sometimes we also have current key suppliers that we approach and that show interest in opening new locations near our factories to support us and, obviously, to retain and/or increase their business with us.”
The overarching solution to several of these challenges is communication. Each company under Emerson Process Management works in the same Oracle platform to streamline the needs of each company compared to what each supplier can provide.
“There was an instance where one of our companies needed a supplier to provide machining parts in Mexico,” Gonzalez said. “When we communicated this to the team, it turned out that there were four other companies under the Emerson Process Management brand that needed a supplier in the same place.”
He also shared that the support each Emerson brand receives from the corporate team is key to the brand’s strategy and success. The corporate team provides services for Emerson Process Management like Emerson Process Management can provide services in lean management to its interested suppliers.
Emerson Corporate and its five business platforms share the same strategy for supply chain. We have the same requirements and metrics. All of our platforms are aligned at a high level, with cost and regionalization, for example, considered and decided upon by the supply chain leaders from each company and with corporate.”
Growing the Emerson Process Management Brand
Although Emerson Process Management’s main growth avenue has been organic, the company is always keeping an eye out for acquisitions that will benefit the brand and its customers.
“Acquisitions are really a way to speed up growth or presence in a market,” said Gonzalez. “It’s true that we are always looking for new markets to expand into and new avenues to increase revenue. As we speak, some of our 11 businesses under Emerson Process Management are working on acquisitions.”
Acquiring a new company means that for Gonzalez and the rest of the supply chain team, Emerson Process Management is getting a new set of, well, everything.
“It really makes my job fun. An acquired company comes in with its own strategy, its own set of suppliers. We work with them to see what they have and where their strengths are and to help them integrate into our company. Sometimes we find these acquisitions have processes and suppliers that are better than the ones we already have.”
In every part of our conversation with Ramon, it was very clear that communication and relationship building—both inside the company and with partners—were key to Emerson Process Management’s success.
Emerson Process Management isn’t just a supply chain company—it’s an automation innovator, engineer, and manufacturer committed to producing useful products for all different types of industries and applications.
The supply chain is just one cog in the whole Emerson Process Management system, and Ramon Gonzalez was able to share more about the company that caught our attention in the February issue.
“You’re under constant pressure to cut costs, increase output, reduce energy use, and improve safety and emissions, all with fewer experienced workers than ever before. That’s why companies around the world turn to Emerson Process Management for technologies, services, and expertise to solve pressing problems—and why our website is evolving to make it easier to find what you need. Because solving your problems is our job, too,” the company shared.
The several other cogs that run Emerson Process Management day in and day out—a committed workforce, approaching safety as a value, and the company’s stance on sustainability—complete the puzzle of how the company can offer quality products to the world in a timely manner.
The Heart of the Operation—Employees
A successful, global engineering company like Emerson Process Management would not be possible without a committed and passionate workforce. This is something that Gonzalez understands well.
“Emerson’s employees are committed to continuous improvements, to excellence in all we do, and to helping solve customers’ and internal problems,” he said. “We are always looking for the best solution.”
It comes down to company culture, which is ultimately one of the biggest recruiting tools a company has in its arsenal. Emerson Process Management maintains a strong culture of high achievement, great for attracting big thinkers and hard workers. The company is also committed to the value of teamwork, which was noticeable in just about everything Gonzalez talked about.
From its relationships with its suppliers detailed in Part One, to the way the company works with its employee base, to its relationships with its customers, Emerson Process Management’s culture is reflected in just about everything it does.
“The culture is what makes us who we are and what keeps us here,” Gonzalez shared. “We are a true engineering company in that we are made of many engineers, from our entry-level manufacturing, marketing, sales, quality, design, etc., up to our highest levels, including our group and business units presidents.
"We strive for success, for innovation in our products and solutions, and to be number one in all we do. Due to this we want to help others be successful as well. We cannot be number one if we act as individuals.”
There are a lot of reasons to be an Emerson employee, but the company’s focus on continuous employee improvement is a big reason to be a part of the team.
The company is not only focused on providing professional growth opportunities but personal ones as well, through opportunities like higher education tuition reimbursement.
Inside the company, there are leadership programs, and programs related to understanding and improving quality, management, sales, lean and six sigma, and safety, among others.
“We strongly encourage and look for internal candidates for open and new positions,” said Gonzalez. “People have opportunities to work at other sites their business unit has or even at the group level or across groups, and at corporate. Opportunities are also available to work in different world areas, as in my case, where I have worked in several locations in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.”
Emerson has also been a strong supporter of STEM initiatives (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) for many years. Emerson’s Chief Marketing Officer Kathy Button Bell has said that this focus is due to the fact we need STEM education in today’s market place to influence our future employees and customers.
For those interested in becoming Emerson employees, the company offers undergraduate internships, co-op opportunities, and has a rigorous recruitment process for new and recent university graduates and MBA graduates, including the Engineers in Leadership Program, which allows recent graduates of engineering programs to immerse themselves in the business and pursue their ideal career path within the company, right in line with STEM initiatives.
But it may very well be the company’s dedication to safety that is the biggest attractor not just for employees, but for customers as well.
Safety: A Value, Not Just a Priority
In every industry, no matter what product a company produces or service it provides, every business will claim that safety is a number one priority. Many take this seriously, and others maybe don’t pay attention to it as much as they should.
Emerson Process Management goes a step above and beyond when it comes to safety. The company calls safety a value—not just a priority.
“We’re all busy. You have to set priorities for what you want to accomplish during a business day. So if I make safety a priority, I can do one of two things with it: push it out of the way when something that I consider more important comes along, or it will take away from something else that needs to be done. Safety shouldn’t be treated this way.
“At Emerson, safety is so ingrained in the back of each employee’s mind that we don’t really need to think about it—we just work safely.”
It’s not an easy feat to be this committed to safety, not with over more than 200 factories of which approximately 140 are located outside the United States, as in the case of Emerson. But Emerson Process Management makes every effort to adhere to its safety value message—starting from the top down.
Safety isn’t just for the workers on the factory floor—leaders, office workers, and anyone who represents the name Emerson Process Management carries this safety mindset. It even extends to suppliers, which the company makes sure are representing it in a safe and quality manner.
Sometimes, however, Emerson may have to push a partner in the right direction.
“We have visited suppliers in developing countries where we have seen workers machining metal and wearing flip-flops, for example, or with no eye protection,” Gonzalez shared. “We have been successful in educating our suppliers when needed, on basic safety standards to protect their workers by providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We have to make sure our suppliers understand that they are not just their own company, but an extension of our company. How they operate reflects on us.”
Emerson was committed to sustainability long before it became a requisite of the modern company. The 1980s saw the corporation’s engineers master new technologies to improve energy utilization in concert with advancing the standard of living for all people.
Emerson Process Management adheres to strict environmental commitments shared by Emerson Corporate, with two primary focuses: 1) provide products and services that improve energy efficiencies and reduce potential harm to the environment, and 2) through efforts to operate facilities in a manner that protects the environment, meets or exceeds government requirements, and continually reduces energy consumption and waste.
“This is a huge concern for a lot of companies, and we take it very seriously,” Gonzalez said. “Emerson Process Management is committed to not only providing products that help with energy efficiency and don’t hurt the environment, but also to operating in a sustainable manner.”
Specifically, Emerson Process Management is continually looking for ways to develop technologies that help customers address environmental challenges, apply cost-effective and energy-efficient manufacturing processes, and comply with laws that protect the environment.
From compressors that drive greater energy efficiencies in heating and air conditioning systems and power technologies that facilitate green data centers and telecommunications networks, to assessments at manufacturing facilities that identified a range of cost-effective opportunities to significantly reduce energy costs, Emerson engineers work constantly at becoming better stewards of the environment.
This compliance extends to several different organizations and industry standards, including WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment regulation) and RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances), both industry regulators.
There are a lot of companies out there doing what Emerson Process Management does. But it seems, that on all the topics I talked to them about, Emerson Process Management is a step above.
From how the company is organized and its communication with the other entities under the Emerson corporate brand, to the relationship with its suppliers, its workforce, and the environment, Emerson Process Management is committed to solving the worlds’ engineering problems, one customer at a time.
“As an engineering company, we have a passion for solving problems. We’ve been successful all of these years by staying on top of what customers need,” said Gonzalez. “It’s a very competitive field, but Emerson Process Management has found a way to stand above the rest.”
You’re under constant pressure to cut costs, increase output, reduce energy use, and improve safety and emissions, all with fewer experienced workers than ever before. That’s why companies around the world turn to Emerson Process Management for technologies, services, and expertise to solve pressing problems—and why our website is evolving to make it easier to find what you need. Because solving your problems is our job, too.
Emerson Process Management is the automation innovator with the depth of expertise and breadth of technologies to take on our customers’ toughest challenges and bring predictable success anytime, anywhere.