Sensor and industrial instrumentation giant Emerson Electric Co. is again expanding in Minnesota with a digital transformation business that will be based in the Twin Cities and help more factories improve processes, safety and profits by tapping and analyzing reams of high-technology data.

Digital transformation will become the sixth unit in Emerson's $11 billion Automation Solutions business, which is largely run from locations in Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Chanhassen and Shakopee and employs 3,500, company officials said on Monday.

The newest division is starting with $650 million in revenue and roughly 1,000 workers. The business is made up of recent acquisitions and existing resources in the Twin Cities locations, plus Knoxville, Tenn.; Austin, Texas; and India.

Company officials expect the fledgling unit to grow to $1 billion in revenue in a few years amid fresh acquisitions and new contracts from food, beverage, pharmaceutical and metal mining customers, said Stuart Harris, the Digital Transformation division's president.

Emerson's parent company is based in St. Louis and is already known for making sensors and instruments that remotely measure fuel tank levels, alert petrochemical plants and refineries about out-of-sync equipment, sense temperature changes and detect processing problems at their earliest stages.

The new approach hopes to help other factory managers with the tools for them to "deliver industry-leading, or top quartile, performance," Harris said.

The unit will offer customers new sensors and other tools that monitor sound changes in equipment, analyze data and help execute fixes for vibrations, pressure valve leaks, pipe corrosion and more, Harris said. It also will help customers install worker location systems for petrochemical plants and other potentially dangerous settings.

Believing that sensors and data analysis can prevent accidents and maximize profits, Emerson invested millions in its new area and plans to introduce more products.

Lal Karsanbhai, president of Emerson Automated Solutions, and Harris told 2,600 attendees at a Tennessee customer conference on Monday that Emerson spent three years querying hundreds of "technology users" and learned they need a lot of help analyzing factory data and understanding how they can use technology to improve factory processes.

"The industry is at a critical point in the digital transformation journey," Harris said. "Many companies have a vision but struggle to implement practical solutions that deliver results and therefore they are getting frustrated. Other companies are solving specific problems, but not realizing value at scale across the enterprise. Emerson has the technology to provide practical solutions, and the experience to define the best practices and road map to help make a broad operational impact."

To get there, Emerson is combining new and existing resources in consulting, project execution, smart sensor technologies, data management and analytics to help customers create strategies that improve results.

"With our new digital transformation business, we are strategically focused on guiding customers to the right strategy," Karsanbhai said.

The new division will be based in Emerson Automation's Bloomington office. The Eden Prairie operation will be writing software for the unit's clients, while the Shakopee and Chanhassen manufacturing plants will develop and make new sensors.