When the largest chemical plant in the country needed help automating its control systems and measurement devices, it turned to the experts at Emerson Automation Solutions. The Fortune 200 company helped the Sasol Lake Charles Chemical Complex more than triple its chemical production in the U.S. Now, Emerson is nearly doubling its presence in Westchase District.
In Houston, Emerson employs more than 2,200 people in about 20 different locations, mainly serving the oil and gas and petrochemicals industries. Emerson first moved to Westchase District in 2011 with the purchase of a 158,000 square-foot building at 6005 Rogerdale Road. In October, the company bought the space next door, a two-story, 151,000 square-foot building at 6001 Rogerdale Road, creating a campus of more than 300,000 square feet of office space and offering them room for growth.
Established in 1890 in St. Louis, Missouri, Emerson has grown into a multinational corporation with more than 87,500 employees and more than 200 manufacturing locations worldwide. “Basically, at our Westchase District location, we sell the technology for the automation of companies’ processes to improve production, safety, reliability and energy use,” said Pedro D’Ascola, vice president and general manager of Remote Automation Solutions, Emerson Automation Solutions. He said Emerson invested $64 million in its original Westchase District building and opened the Emerson Global Industry Center for Hydrocarbon and Energy, which features an operations center, customer solutions center, offices, a cafeteria and a fitness center.
“Our customers can tour the center and learn about Emerson’s automation technologies and our highly sophisticated exploration and production software,” D’Ascola said. “We host hundreds of visits every year here to showcase our solutions and expertise.”
The centerpiece of most visits revolves around the state-of-the-art Collaboration & Solution Center. A circular conference room that evokes the feel of the command bridge on a TV show sci-fi spaceship, the center is equipped with monitors, smart boards and the latest teleconferencing technology. “It’s designed to facilitate conversations with our customers, wherever they’re located around the globe, so that we can fully understand their vision and how we might help them,” said Billy Landers, solutions center manager.
From there, the conversations move to a cavernous adjoining room where work teams can delve further into the details of particular challenges. In the “immersive theater,” 24 flat screens cover three walls and the space is anchored by a large touch screen table where files and images may be manipulated with the swipe of a finger. The “solutions theater” features a row of stools positioned in front of a curved wall of 10 screens where findings and recommendations are presented in a high-tech, panoramic fashion.
People and plans
But for all the impressive audiovisual gadgets, D’Ascola stressed that the company runs on the experience of its employees. “These tools can save us and our customers time and money, but ultimately our success depends on our people,” he said. “We have some of the deepest expertise and know-how when it comes to bringing improvements to oil and gas operations. Our dedicated consulting groups help customers evaluate and implement digital transformation strategies. They do all that best when we keep them happy.”
D’Ascola said employees have been happy with their location in Westchase District. “It has great access, is easy for our customers to find and no one’s commute is too painful,” he said. “There are a lot of great hotels and restaurants nearby to choose from when hosting and entertaining clients. Our current building is full, so the facility next door will allow us to continue adding resources here as we grow and perhaps consolidate some of our other areas dispersed around town.”
Once remodeled, 6001 Rogerdale will accommodate up to 650 employees, making the pair of buildings Emerson’s largest campus in Houston. Facilities manager Elroy Moore said Emerson recently entered its planning phase to reconfigure and enhance the building. “It’s in good condition, but since our business is process management, we have lots of opinions internally about increasing efficiencies, using better technologies and ways to work in more agile teams,” he said. Moore said he expects some employees will move in by late 2019, with the majority of employees moving in sometime in 2020. “It’s an exciting time and we appreciate both our customers and employees who trust us to help them along this journey.”