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By Gregory Hale
Whether it is working with a team to put together a safety system or an integrator to ensure the security program is up and running, the idea of partnerships continues to grow in the industry.

Travis Capps knows all about the challenges facing a manufacturing automation professional these days – and he found a way to solve the issues through partnerships.

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The vice president of energy and gases at San Antonio, TX-based Valero, looked at the challenges he faces every day. Things like increased regulations, global competition, demographic shifts where 40 percent of his workforce is retirement eligible, technology changes and the speed of change continuing to accelerate.

He also knew in this day and age, tackling those challenges needed more than just the folks he works with. Yes, the company was looking to be the best company, not necessarily the biggest they also wanted to leverage their capabilities, but not bring on more staff. That is why they decided to fill the gaps in their system by going out and finding a technology partner.

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“People and expertise are walking out the door through retirement,” said Steve Sonnenberg, executive vice president at Emerson and president of Emerson Process Management during a Monday presentation talking about challenges facing automation professionals at the Emerson Global Users Exchange. “The most critical challenge is 95 million high- and medium-skilled workers could be leaving the industry by 2020.”

That is what leads Capps to say his company is an energy producer and he will leave working out the technology aspect to his partner.

“I don’t have time to understand Emerson’s technology,” Capps said. “I trust our partners.”

“You can have all the technology in the world, if you don’t have the people you could be in trouble,” said Jim Nyquist, president of PlantWeb Solutions Group.

While others from companies like Cargill, Shell and Valero also gave presentations discussing how partnership pacts helped save what could have been a messy and costly endeavor, the end result was finding the right partner that can handle technology areas that are not part of the company’s core competency is more important today than it ever has been.

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