ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — The Austin area is known for technology, which now plays a big part in manufacturing. You may have seen or heard of augmented reality; you put on a helmet and you can see what’s in front of you, with virtual graphics. Emerson Innovation Center in Round Rock makes sensors for the technology.
National, state and local leaders gathered at Emerson Wednesday morning to begin the 2017 National State of Manufacturing address. “It’s not the same manufacturing I grew up in,” said Emerson CEO David Farr, who is about to meet with President Trump. “When I was younger, you walked through a manufacturing facility and you saw a lot of stamping and welding.”
Today, it’s different. “Machinery is still being used, but it’s automated and they have sensors on it,” Farr said. “These sensors are being automated back to a computer or our control system, which is being developed right here in Austin and that control room is actually controlling what’s going on at the facility.”
Emerson uses sensors and valves, and designs software, which is basically the “brains” of running a manufacturing plant. Farr says it’s the future of manufacturing, and that doesn’t mean fewer jobs, just different jobs. “What you must have today is the skill set around computers, communications, you have to use software, so it’s a lot more education,” says Farr.
Emerson promotes science, technology, engineering and math in schools, and they even teach at their own facility. Emerson employee Mike Boudreaux has seen the change. He now uses technology to predict failures at plants. “We can collect the data and get it into the hands of experts wherever they are,” explains Boudreaux. “In the previous world you had to have an expert at the equipment, in the operation at the manufacturing site, in order to help troubleshoot and solve problems.”
It’s a different world, Farr hopes to help expand, and he’s taking his request to the president. “Where we can try to figure out how to get permits through, how we can build things faster, and some of the regulations that really slow investments down and forces us manufacturers to maybe look outside the United States.”
Emerson employs about 74,000 people at 155 locations. The company is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. In Round Rock, the company runs systems that controls power and chemical plants. In the reaminingTexas locations, they manufacture control valves that go in plants.