JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 20 : October 10, 2000

JimPinto.com eNews is a new-age newsletter, published irreverently and irregularly by Jim Pinto.

Business & marketing commentary with new attitudes and no platitudes. We tell it like we see it. No advertising, no fear, no favor. Who's hiring and firing; who is buying up and selling out; who is hot and who is not. Stay e-tuned....


  • Futurist Movies
  • EBiz - better ways to get personal
  • The Home of the Future
  • Book: Digital Capital - Business Webs
  • Dead horse wisdom
  • Companies in trouble
  • Acquisition buzz - eFeedback

Futurist Movies

Futurist Josh Calder, a researcher at Coates & Jarratt, has created a website devoted to discussing a wide range of future-oriented topics as they are portrayed in films. Cloning, for instance, is portrayed in both Woody Allen's SLEEPER (1973) and Luc Besson's THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997). Nanotechnology is portrayed in "The Fifth Element" as well as TERMINATOR II (James Cameron, 1991). And time travel is depicted in "Terminator II" as well as TERMINATOR I (Cameron, 1984), TWELVE MONKEYS (Terry Gilliam, 1995), and all of the STAR TREK films (original creator Gene Roddenberry).

Calder uses the discussion of movies on the site to bring ideas about the future to a wide audience. He invites your feedback.

Click Visit Calder's Futurist Movies website

Coates & Jarratt, is a 20-year-old futurist consulting firm in Washington, DC.

Click Visit the Coates & Jarratt website

E-biz : Better ways to get personal

Have you bought a toy online as a gift - and then been bombarded by toy-advertising the next time you went to the website? Well, that is because the website "remembered" what you bought, and assumed that you wanted more toys. The repeat advertising is intrusive and irritating. It makes you feel as annoyed as you would be with a sales person who keeps following you around and won't leave you alone. And, you probably won’t go back.

Recognizing that this kind of e-marketing simply alienates - and loses - customers, most good web-marketers are making their websites smarter. Personalization systems that track buying habits are being tweaked to find out your "real" preferences.

Click Read the ZDNET story

The Future Home

What will the home of the future look like? Invensys Network Systems is doing some significant work with the technology of home networking, remote monitoring and diagnostics. Invensys hardware, software and technology can link just about anything that's operated by electricity - from the kitchen stove, washer, dryer and refrigerator, to the heating, air conditioning, lighting, and security system. If it's controlled by electricity, chances are it can be part of a LAN you can tap into over the Internet.

Click Take a look at The Home of the Future

Digital Capital : Harnessing the Power of Business Webs

The irony of the new economy is that, despite ferocious competition, success derives increasingly from connectivity and cooperation. "Business webs" refers to the growing phenomenon of electronically enhanced business partnerships that are recreating the whole concept of the corporation. These are strategically aligned, multi-enterprise partner networks of producers, suppliers, service providers, infrastructure companies and customers that conduct business communication and transactions via digital channels. The enterprise that succeeds today forms lateral partnerships with other goods-or-service providers and eliminates the role of planes, trains, and trucks - time, money and human energy.

In DIGITAL CAPITAL, futurist Don Tapscott and fellow cyber consultants David Ticoll and Alex Lowy analyze the b-web concept. They offer guidelines for harnessing its power, helping to plan your communications strategy for your biz-web participants, especially your customers. You must shift resources from traditional marketing to product and service innovation. Honesty and Trust are critical for secure transactions. Attention is a scarce resource - manage it wisely.

Click Digital Capital : take a look at the book

Dead Horse Wisdom

The inimitable and irrepressible Dick Morley is himself a "portal" for internet humor and wisdom. He sent me this recently and I thought you'd like it.

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from one generation to the next, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

However, in modern business, because heavy investment factors are taken into consideration, other strategies are often tried with dead horses, including the following:

  1. Buying a stronger whip.
  2. Changing riders.
  3. Threatening the horse with termination.
  4. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
  5. Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
  6. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
  7. Reclassifying the dead horse as "living-impaired".
  8. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
  9. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.
  10. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse's performance.
  11. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.
  12. Declaring that the dead horse carries lower overhead and therefore contributes more to the bottom line than some other horses.
  13. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.
  14. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

Companies in Trouble

A lotttt of dust was stirred up by my recent article.

Click Why is Automation Declining?

There was a significant amount to discussion on the Automation List, with the questions: Is automation really declining? Why? Aren't there pockets of growth? Is the decline worldwide? Why is the market stagnant? Is the decline temporary?

It is evident today (Oct. 2000) that several of the major industrial automation companies are in trouble. During the past couple of weeks, Invensys stock, already depressed, dropped by about 40% to a level where its market cap was below the price of BTR alone when the Siebe/BTR merger occurred two years ago - conjectures are rife about an Invensys buyout. Rockwell stock has dipped to it lowest ever, because Allen-Bradley is stagnant. Honeywell continues to struggle, and it is my opinion that the Industrial Automation Division will inevitably be sold off. What is happening here?

My new article : Companies in Trouble has just been published in Controls Intelligence & Plant Systems Report, October 2000.

When he first saw it, Jack Grenard, Publisher Emeritus, wrote:

    "I thought to myself : 'It's Jim Pinto again, simply stirring the pot with his old theme!' But, then I realized that it was not just another critical commentary. It traces the decline of some past industry leaders and points out the patterns with a panoramic view. Thank you for providing this valuable insight!"

My article was written after the Automation List discussions. I felt that more people needed to understand the decline, its causes and the remedies. This article describes the specific situations at Rockwell, Invensys and Honeywell. And it brings up the specter of the late-stage sale, at a rock-bottom price, of troubled ICS(UK) (Max Controls, Triplex, Transmitton). Finally, it offers predictions, warnings and advice.

The original version of this article was published in Controls Intelligence & Plant Systems Report, October 2000.

Companies in Trouble Read Companies in Trouble

Click Download a .pdf version

You too can join The Automation List. Send an email with "subscribe" (just the word, no quotes) in the subject line to :

Subscribe to The Automation Lst listserv@control.com

Acquisition Buzz

It seems that Alchemy/Tritax, the vulture-oops-venture firm that bought ICS (UK) at a ridiculously low penny-a-share, has wasted very little time in moving out to divest the pieces.

An employee at Max Control Systems e-wrote to JimPinto.com eNews :

    "While it hasn't been announced yet, TriTrax has agreed to sell Max Controls Systems to Neles Automation, a division of Metso. My understanding is that it's a 'done deal'. Multiple cartons shipped FedEx from Neles showed up addressed to the HR director, indicating that employees will be informed shortly.

    "Prior to the Alchemy offer which was accepted by the ICS Board, there was an offer on the table to ICS for Max from Neles. From what I've heard, that offer was almost as much as Alchemy offered for the whole group. It was not accepted, as it would not have benefited the banks controlling the board as much as the Alchemy offer."

Another acquisition-buzz item :

By now, it is common knowledge that the Honeywell Sensors business unit (formerly Microswitch) has acquired UK-based TrendView Instrumentation, a manufacturer of paperless chart recorders, pressure transducers, radio telemetry systems, and data acquisition products. TrendView products will be integrated into the Sensing and Control division to expand Honeywell's current line of VRX Series video/paperless recorders.

This runs counter to my prediction that Honeywell will divest its industrial controls activities. (Note : Industrial Automation (Phoenix) and Sensors (Chicago) are separate units, but both part of the Honeywell Industrial Controls Group.) A rumor that did support my conjectures was that the Honeywell field-transmitters products had been sold to Endress+Hauser.

Can anyone at Honeywell IAC confirm or deny this news??


On the subject of Invensys, an insider e-wrote :
    "Playing Golf, while Invensys burns : Invensys stock was down about another 8% in the last five trading days and it continues its precarious slide down the financial slope. Meanwhile, CEO Allen Yurko is in Las Vegas this week as Invensys sponsors a major PGA golf tournament."

On the subject of Automation in decline, James Musselman, Radix, Inc., Clovis, CA 93611 radix1234@hotmail.com e-wrote :

    "I worked in industrial controls for many years designing hardware and writing firmware. I got very, very comfortable. Then, starting in the early 90s, my clients started to be sold or re-organized. Nobody seemed to be making money, not even the owners.

    "I moved on to the computer world. The difference is day and night! Suddenly, instead of old, stable 4-20 mA current loops, you're surrounded by fast-moving new technologies - something 3 years old is already "Neanderthal". To all the middle aged and displaced engineers like me I say : a solid engineering background is a superb base for launching into Software Engineering. I find it relaxing and satisfying; basically anyone can do it who is willing to read and learn."

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