“Engaging Minds. Amazing Results.” Steve Sonnenberg, business leader of Emerson Process Mgmt (www.emersonprocess.com), said he couldn’t think of a more appropriate focus for the 2009 Emerson Global User’s Exchange, which is being held this week at the Gaylord Palms hotel and conference center in Orlando, FL. And thus we have the theme for this year’s Emerson Exchange, as Sonnenberg used his keynote address to announce that Emerson is repositioning its product development strategy to focus less on features for features’ sake and more on creating technology with usability as the central mission.

According Sonnenberg, faced with an aging workforce and a struggling economy, companies have less in-house expertise than has traditionally been the case. He says that as skilled automation professionals continue to opt for retirement and the economic downturn forces more layoffs, companies are left with relatively inexperienced maintenance and operations personnel. As such, he says companies need technologies that are easy to use and provide the most relevant data points in a format that enables this relatively inexperienced workforce to make prudent decisions in the most efficient manner possible. “[Companies today] want to drive the car not build it,” says Sonnenberg.

As such, Sonnenberg says Emerson has launched a new initiative called Human Centered Design Institute, which will aim to ensure the technologies Emerson is developing are user friendly. He says, “The truth is, the automation technologies that were developed 20 years ago weren’t developed on work practices, they were developed based on features.” Now, with it’s Human Centered Design program leading the way, Sonnenberg says Emerson will be making sure that it’s technologies are designed with the actual work process and usability front and foremost.

Some of the first examples of this focus, according to Sonnenberg, can be seen in Emerson’s latest version of Delta V S-Series with I/O on Demand, touted as a wholly new, simplified method for connecting to the control system. In addition, Sonnenberg says Emerson is releasing 50 new AMS test screens, which offer a more simplified view and bring the automation function more in line with current end-user needs.