[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of reports from the Endress+Hauser Global Forum 2023 in Basel, Switzerland. Look for more articles from our sister brand, ControlGlobal.com.]
If one were to describe 2023 with a single word, 'opportunity' would sum it up nicely.
As the world maneuvers to put the global pandemic behind it, and with the specter of climate change still ahead, the coming years present a time of great opportunity. This is particularly true for process automation and instrumentation providers, who figure to be on the front lines of the effort to promote more sustainable options, refine remote operations, and usher in more efficient processes for the industrial sector worldwide.
When Matthias Altendorf, CEO of Endress+Hauser, took the stage at the group’s Global Forum in late June in Basel, Switzerland, opportunity was on his mind. So too, was sustainability, and the two concepts aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, the entire Global Forum was built around cultivating ideas for a more sustainable future wherever possible and the opportunity for the industrial sector — via process automation — to lead the charge.
But how, exactly?Under the banner of 'Insights for Sustainable Decisions' and the watchful eye of 'Neo,' a (very) large, AI-operated talking head with grass for hair, speakers on the main stage and in breakout technical sessions outlined the technology and best practices for global end users who wish to reach their net-zero goals. Neo not only served as a sort of mascot for the event, but also juxtaposed the interplay between automation and control technology and sustainability. All these efforts start with measurement and instrumentation, Altendorf told the audience.
Now in its 70th year of producing instrumentation for flow, level, analysis, temperature and pressure measurement, Endress+Hauser is focused on creating appropriate sustainability initiatives not only for itself, but also to help its end users achieve their desired success while still maintaining economic success. (See Control’s special supplement, 70 years of instrumentation leadership.) With more than 16,000 employees and 3.4 billion euros in sales in more than 50 countries, Endress+Hauser is well-positioned to be a leader in the march toward sustainability.
However, Altendorf was quick to point out to the event’s more than 1,000 attendees that it’s the people that make all the difference in becoming a more sustainable company, industry and world. “Profit is not a goal but a result of good people management,” he said, recognizing that sustainability success still requires economic success. After all, if there is no company or no industry, there is no sustainable effort.
Altendorf is man of his word, too. The Germany native grew up near the Black Forest, and today he says he’s lucky enough to be the owner and personal caretaker of “a few acres” of the fabled woods. He described his daily tasks and reported that he often worries as he sees the direct effects of climate change on the trees in his care. It’s this kind of hands-on passion and leadership that he believes must be put forward by the industrial sector and governments to truly make a difference.
“A leader’s job is to turn uncertainty into certainty,” he said of the quickly changing environment. “The process industry has the ability to be an agent of sustainable change. We’re part of the solution, not part the problem.”
However, sustainable transformation concerns a whole industrial ecosystem that no one can build alone, according to Altendorf. He, like many of the accomplished speakers, said the path to climate neutrality requires new solutions, many of which aren’t even conceived yet.
With the right mix of new ideas, sustainable transformation in industry will open new business opportunities for everyone, particularly the process industry representatives on hand in Basel, who make up most of the value chain for measurement and control products that will be used to create more environmentally and socially responsible operations.
“It’s about shaping a sustainable future across the entire value chain, so we work with our suppliers and customers to formally identify sustainable targets and incorporate them into our global strategy,” added Endress+Hauser’s corporate social responsibility officer, Julia Schempp, during a breakout technical session. She added the group launched an initiative in March to define a credible net-zero target that’s completely science-based, known as the science-based target initiative.
Added Altendorf, "However, for this to happen, we all have to do our part and support the cause."