More than 2,000 people, a record number, gathered in San Diego for the 16th annual Rockwell Software user conference and education event RSTechED. Even though this event kicks off a world tour that will eventually reach 5,000 customers, people came from 41 countries to this one.

The theme of the conference is The Connected Enterprise. It’s interesting to see the progress that Rockwell has made over the last few years as it has methodically assembled the pieces of connectivity.

IP Advantage

The backbone of the connected enterprise is EtherNet/IP, the CIP series of protocols that are able to enable Ethernet TCP/UDP/IP connectivity without special silicon (“standard, unmodified Ethernet”), and what they now call Industrial IP. Check out the Web site. It is part of an education program called IP Advantage. The idea is that it’s not just Ethernet, but the protocol suites based on IP (Internet Protocol) that is the key enabling technology.

Sujeet ChandChief Technology Officer Sujeet Chand delivered the first keynote presentation laying out the technology foundation and rationale for The Connected Enterprise.

Inflection Point

Charting a brief history of technology through the Industrial Age and as that changed from steam to electricity, he said that the Information Age is still nascent. (Something I’ve also read from McAfee and Brynjoffson of “Race Against the Machine” fame.) Since it is still developing, we have not reached the inflection point of the technology. Chand believes that 2013 will see the inflection point of the Information Age in manufacturing.

The key problem for manufacturing leaders right now is how to wring value from the huge investments they have made in ERP systems to connect their enterprises. Chand said that many are now focusing on outcomes: faster time to market, lower total cost of ownership, improved asset utilization and enterprise risk management. The keys to achieving the outcomes lie in being smarter, more productive, secure and sustainable. Technologies pushing this include mobility, the cloud, big data/analytics, fact-based decisions. Or, as he summarized, the manufacturing technology is becoming collaborative, virtual, secure.

People Use It

Frank KulaszewiczSenior Vice President Frank Kulaszewicz discussed how IT and operations are coming together with EtherNet/IP as the enabler. He mentioned a couple of products with enhancements coming to RS Studio 5000 and a new secure product coming from Rockwell’s collaboration with Cisco–the Stratix 5900 UTM. Leveraging off a discussion about how Toyota has used FactoryTalk Vantage Point (MES product) for improved operations, he discussed how customers are starting to put together all the technologies Chand discussed for improved operations.

I’ve attended many sessions over the past 15 years, and I find patterns interesting. Rockwell never has gone for the “Wow” factor in presentations such as this. Its speakers always methodically lay out the path, technologies and use cases and leave you with the feeling that things just work. It’s just logical.

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