[updated – I was actually saving to draft and saved to publish] Rockwell Automation reported record attendance for both its Safety Automation Forum (380) and Process Solutions User Group (850 about 800) this week. While both of those sessions continued Tuesday, 100 journalists convened for a day of sessions highlighting trends that Rockwell thinks are important for manufacturing plus a round of executive interviews. The opening of the 2-day Automation Fair event brought another 12,000 plus attendees.

In an interesting point/counterpoint, the first keynote by Robert Atkinson, President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation was on the importance of manufacturing and how clueless economists are about it. The second keynote by William Strauss who is senior economist and industry economic advisor of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Atkinson was a good keynoter who made some points about the importance of manufacturing to the general economy. Strauss followed with data to back that up. One of the big points I got was that manufacturing is still a profitable business to be in.

Two panels emphasized key points Rockwell wished to get across–first was on the “optimized plant and supply” and second was workforce development.

During my executive interviews, I achieved the sudden realization that “Plant Wide Optimization” along with “Integrated Architecture” are more than cool marketing terms and PowerPoint slides. Customers are actually using the tools and technologies to achieve control at the machine or process level, plant level and enterprise level. It was one of those “Duh” moments, but in my defense, I hear lots of marketing terms and buzz words that lack substance and reality. Or, perhaps they are theoretical frameworks for future product development. At any rate, I learned otherwise.

I always find amusing the way companies talk about competitors or even the reputation companies have among end users. Often I find the reality much different from rumor. So, I saw an acquaintance whose entire career until a few months ago has been anti-Rockwell. Now he works for it. It was his first Automation Fair. He was grinning from ear to ear. Just goes to show, observe for yourself and make your own judgements.

Rockwell had announced excellent financial results for its last fiscal year. Revenues are now greater than $6 billion. The sales channel is solidifying. In fact, the theme that I perceive about Rockwell is that things are coming together. I see a much more integrated company than any time in the past. Some old fiefdoms are gone. It is poised to take it to the next level.

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