Making the Future

Event Report

Rockwell Automation Fair 2017 showcased technologies that aid digital transformation and best practices for monitoring operations to increase collaboration across the enterprise.

by Jayashree Mendes and S Saikumar

The connected enterprise is often cited as the lynchpin for manufacturers that can help them achieve faster time to market, optimise their assets, lower total cost of ownership and improve enterprise risk. Since manufacturing came to be termed as an industry, end users and machine builders have constantly sought for a better understanding of real-time performance and health status of their production assets. In November that dream of real-time analytics and instant visibility moved a few steps closer to reality at the Automation Fair 2017 event held at the George R. Brown Convention Centre in Houston, Texas, from November 14-16 where Rockwell Automation demonstrated major advances in advanced analytics under the umbrella of its FactoryTalk software offering.

Thousands of industrial professionals convened in Houston for the Automation Fair 2017 event to learn more about the latest advanced manufacturing technologies shaping the industry, and the automation tools that can help them be more globally competitive and productive. Hosted by Rockwell Automation and its PartnerNetwork members, the Automation Fair event is a premier industry experience uniquely designed to help manufacturers and OEMs optimise their automation investments to achieve their business goals.

In addition, delegates were also privy to the latest control system network infrastructure based on standard, unmodified EtherNet/IP, safety, power and information technologies that support The Connected Enterprise. The three-day fair saw more than 95 technical sessions, including 9 forums, and 19 hands-on labs offered for free. There were labs in the following technical sessions: automotive and tyre, chemical and specialty chemical, food & beverage, Life Sciences, machine and equipment builders (OEMs), mining and cement, oil & gas, power and energy, process, pulp and paper, safety, The Connected Enterprise, and water & wastewater.

Simultaneously, the company’s specialists, partners, customers and other industry professionals shared insights on industrial solutions that provide working data capital for better collaboration and more profitable decisions across enterprises and supply chains.

Visitors to the event also discovered the latest automation technology at the event’s exposition from the host company and more than 100 of its partners. Along with its PartnerNetwork programme members, the Fair has more than 150 exhibits including Encompass Product Partners, OEM Partners and Strategic Alliance Partners who showcased the newest and most advanced power, control and information solutions at the event.

Great on the field
In his keynote address to the media gathered for the company’s Automation Perspectives event at the 26th annual Automation Fair, Blake Moret, president & CEO, Rockwell Automation, explained the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing and how it’s equipping workers with the skills to take advantage of new technologies. “The Internet of Things is unlocking new ways of gaining value and increasing productivity, and we are just getting started,” said Moret. “The Industrial Internet of Things connects data. We take the data from those plant-floor devices and turn it into useful information and produce positive outcomes for our customers. We develop advancements to keep people safe in the workplace. People find new and better ways to make things, live and work. Good things happen when we combine the potential of automation with the imagination of people.” Speaking on the sidelines to the media, Moret said that the company’s strategy is to bring the Connected Enterprise to life and integrate control and information across the enterprise to make companies and people more productive. Bringing the idea closer to home, he added that in India the company works closely with partners like L&T on large infrastructure projects. He stressed that some of the important sectors that are deriving benefits of automation in India are transportation, EPC, automotive, vehicle assembly, life sciences and the oil & gas sector. Going forward, the company is keen to work closely with the government of India on water treatment & metro rail projects, not to forget play an important role in the Smart Cities initiative.

During the course of the day, attendees saw a variety of technologies that help support digital transformation – using production data to improve business outcomes – and best practices for monitoring and managing operations to increase integration and collaboration across the enterprise. To this end, Rockwell Automation has again expanded its analytics offering, with a new platform that pulls data from virtually any source in the enterprise, and delivers analytics in intuitive dashboards, helping users to rapidly resolve issues and drive tangible business outcomes across The Connected Enterprise.

Making a mark
In another media interaction, there were aligned four key personnel, namely, Pierre Teszner, Regional Director, Southeast Asia; Joe Bartolomeo, Regional Vice President, Asia Pacific; Dillip Sawhney, MD, India; and John Watts, Marketing Director, Asia Pacific who expounded on how manufacturing hubs in South East Asia is causing the company to play on their strength.
Speaking about the Indian market, Sawhney said that the company’s presence in India last 35 years has seen the business grow with emerging consumer trends not to forget the growth of the automation industry playing a larger and more important part in manufacturing. “In addition to that, with the quicker pace in nation building activities, we understand that the Indian government has planned for 100 Smart Cities, and while there is only early momentum, we plan to be a part of it. But, importantly, the focus for us has been in the other growing infrastructure areas such as power, particularly renewable energy, and over the last year and year-and-a-half this has grown exponentially. Besides this, we have seen an uptick in urban transportation, metro rail in Tier 2 cities and we are already a part of these developments,” he added.

Replying to the question on growth, Sawhney said it is important to know that even within the industry lies a full spectrum of players. “Some have attained maturity in terms of their leverage on technology, but there is a big bulk of companies that are yet to plunge in. In terms of industries, there are mainly consumer, heavy industry and infrastructure. In all these, the automotive has been at the forefront of technology adoption. We are now moving to Tier I suppliers and looking at how we could be of assistance to them. In terms of consumer industries, relatively smaller companies are now taking to large-scale technology, and we are happy to note that it is mainly to drive productivity,” added Sawhney.

For long, the consumer facing companies has been the mainstay for the company. It has made giant strides in food & beverages, life sciences, automotive and tyres, among others. Another concern for the company has been skill and talent development. The journey of Rockwell Automation to build an inclusive culture and more diverse organisation began long ago. Still a work in progress, the automation giant’s transformation earned it the 2017 Catalyst Award, which recognises innovative organisational initiatives that address the recruitment, development and advancement of employees. Speaking about the AsiaPac market, Bartolomeo said that most strategies are being developed around the connected enterprise. “We pick and choose companies where we can deliver value and our customers recognise us for that. The other part that we also deliver is automation,” he added.
With little airs about them, Bartolomeo admits that all development is not done in-house. The company believes in roping in the best and has partnered with Cisco, Microsoft, Endress+Hauser and Panduit. He added that what differentiates Rockwell from others is the way enable. “What you call IoT today was factory of the future for us 35 years ago. What is different today is the availability of commercially available technologies that is made possible on your iPhone and watch. So we gained a lot of expertise that we didn’t just require yesterday that we’ve been implementing for years,” he added.

Teszner spoke about how fortunate the company has been to have strong market conditions. “Overall, the macro has been highly supporting in automotive and parts of consumer were strong, heavy industries that have been picking up. The renewed emphasis on manufacturing in South East Asian countries has been a boon. Much of our focus is on moving these connected enterprise pilots into rollouts at enterprise-wide scale. Some that are moving is where we have multi-plant installations. That’s how we’ve putting it all together — starting with the foundational products, adding the software and the high-value services, business models are being tested,” he added.

With nearly 12,000 visitors, the Fair saw customers showing an avid interest in every aspect of existing and new technology keeping the Rockwell team busy with queries.


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