I’m in Orlando at the annual summer gathering of Rockwell Automation distributor and customer tech specialists. This is where they go for training in current products and introduction to new ones. And to get a little fired up about the company.
Rockwell Automation currently bills itself as the largest company solely devoted to industrial automation. True to the billing, current Senior Vice President and incoming President and CEO Blake Moret told the 2,100 gathered attendees, “All we do is industrial productivity.”
Moret’s other significant quote revealed a huge cultural shift that Rockwell Automation has undergone under current CEO Keith Nosbusch—We describe the value of the Connected Enterprise to customers in language specific to each. That means that the company has learned to speak other terminology than discrete manufacturing and machine control. Historically it lost credibility by going into batch and continuous processing companies and describing offerings using the terminology of discrete. Now they can talk pharma, or oil & gas, or whatever.
Sujeet Chand, SVP and CTO, gave the technology keynote. Chand talked about connecting silos of information—something we’ve discussed for years but seems closer to reality than ever before.
He did not spend much time on trends (collaborative robots, wearables, mobility), but pointed out that many countries are starting advanced manufacturing initiatives. The danger of so many independent initiatives is that this could lead to multiple standards, which would be a mess. He urged us to work for common standards.
Chand reinforced the value propositions for the Connected Enterprise, Rockwell’s focus for several years:
- Faster time to market
- Lower total cost of ownership
- Improve asset utilization
- Enterprise Risk Management
Why do we care about IT/OT convergence—something else we’ve discussed for years. This convergence is a key factor for Connected Enterprise, however, another benefit is it leads to improved workflow.
Since I follow all things IoT, I found Chand’s “IoT Stack” interesting. It’s fairly typical, but he differentiates data abstraction from data accumulation in the mix and does not specifically use the term analytics.
- Collaboration & processes
- Data Abstraction
- Data Accumulation
- Edge Computing
- Physical devices
Frank Kulaszewicz, SVP Control and Architecture, delved into High Performance Architecture. Fundamental to high performance architecture are devices that are self-aware. A photoelectric, for example, can send a notification that it needs to be aligned or cleaned. Or a motion control servo drive can be self-tuning. Stepping up from self-aware devices are systems that are “system-aware.”
Dean Kamen, prolific inventor and entrepreneur, was the “star” keynote.
He began with a bit of discouragement, “As society get older, adoption of technology slows.” But then he showed development of some of his notable inventions that have made the world better for many. There is the insulin pump, portable dialysis machine, prosthetic arms with such great control that people can pick up a grape and eat it without crushing the grape designed for people who have lost their entire arms. Lack of clean drinking water is the #1 killer of children globally. He invented “slingshot” a machine that distills and condenses water such that just about anything wet even from manure piles can be converted to safe drinking water. He partnered with Coca-Cola to get them distributed to areas of great need.
His greatest achievement is the invention of the FIRST Robotics competition. Begun in 1989 to inspire high school kids to develop a passion for science and engineering, the movement has spread to 86 countries.
Technology development, especially through the middle ages and even by technologists like Da Vinci, was for development of tools of war for their princely benefactors. Kamen’s vision is to challenge kids (and the rest of us) to develop technology to solve human problems. No Terminators, here.