Rockwell Automation 2014 PanelYesterday was “Rockwell Automation—meet the executive team” day for media at Automation Fair. I had meetings with CEO Keith Nosbusch and Senior Vice Presidents Blake Moret, Frank Kulaszewicz and Sujeet Chand (who is also CTO). In addition, I was able to chat with SVP sales and marketing John McDermott and SVP operations Marty Thomas.

It was time well spent as well as informative.

I begin with some thoughts of the past to set the stage for the discussions.

Back in the late 70s or early 80s (memory fogs with age, I guess, and today is my birthday so there is another strike about age) Mary Cunningham wrote a book about her experiences as a new Harvard MBA working at a high level in a corporation. The CEO had a “grand plan” and visions of huge growth. Buried in the book was a paragraph I’ll never forget—and Cunningham should have understood at the time that this was the seed of destruction. She described how the senior executive staff were all battling each other and the new CEO (her future husband).

A few years ago a friend who is ex-Rockwell explained to me that Rockwell would never be able to get Ethernet into the entire product line because every VP had his own proprietary connectivity buried in his P&L.

Well, regarding the current state of Rockwell Automation, these descriptions are both grossly inaccurate.

First, everyone can speak to the company vision fluently and with passion. I think it is more than just putting on a good face to the media, because the proof is in results. Kulaszewicz leads the group that develops the Integrated Architecture vision into reality. Moret early on embedded a person whose job was to drive integrated architecture (EtherNet/IP essentially) into all the business groups in Components, Motor Control and Services.

And it has been accomplished.

Moret told me that intelligent motor control is more tightly integrated than ever before. They are even trying a drive that is only CIP Motion for configuration—similar to the Kinetex line of motion control.

Moret also leads Services and Solutions. He told me that that business is growing and that about half are remote based. And they keep looking at customer pain points to add services. There will be more networking support coming.

Kulaszewicz expressed the same reason for the Connect Enterprise enthusiasm that Nosbusch told me. After years of planning and execution, they are seeing rapid adoption by customers who are reaping benefits already. He also talked about Moret’s embedded integrated architecture evangelist. He mentioned information that even a photoelectric sensor can send including alignment and dirty lens problems. Among interesting things that they really haven’t talked with me before is an 802.15.4 wireless mesh network that is even in the control loop in some applications.

Chand met with me along with several executives from Cisco. The partnership just keeps getting tighter. They mentioned that Cisco CEO John Chambers talks regularly with Nosbusch. But the real topic was security. They drew a parallel with safety where engineers discovered that by going back and rethinking a machine with safety in mind they could also improve productivity. Similarly with security, network engineers are looking at the network architecture with security in mind. I won’t be surprised if they eventually discover that they’ve architected a more robust network.

Further, watch for more reference architectures and white papers for best practices to come from the collaboration.

Now to go out on the show floor and find my way among the thousands in attendance.

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