This was an interesting email. Siemens invited me to a webinar where I could learn how easy it now is to use TIA Portal software for automation and control development work building upon my knowledge of Rockwell Automation’s Studio 6000 software.

When I sold Allen-Bradley back in the 90s, I went head-to-head with Modicon (remember it?). Just as I left for greener pastures called Control Engineering, Schneider Electric acquired Modicon. That was the end of effective competition in the automation and control space in North America. There are a number of companies—all good companies with good products—which remain niche players here. We can count B&R, Beckhoff, Automation Direct, Mitsubishi, Omron.

Aside from Automation Direct, which had always carefully calculated its space and structured the company to capitalize on its space with a profitable business plan, executives from each of the others has proclaimed to me that they will be the one to knock off Number One Rockwell from its perch in North America.


Back in the 90s again, I had a few customers using TI PLCs. One of them bought a PLC 5 from me. The other one told me he could get the same thing he was buying from a new company that sent him a catalog—PLCDirect, which became AutomationDirect. I thought, wow, PLCs by mail. This is becoming a commodity market.

What had happened was that TI sold its PLC business to Siemens. I figured it was an opening for me to sell against. I batted .500.

I used to joke that Siemens bought the business and then successfully drove market share from 4% to 2%. It just kept hanging on. Not unlike Rockwell in Siemens’ home turf in Europe.

Then a couple of things happened. First, Chrysler got into financial trouble (again) and sold to first one then another European company. Suddenly Siemens had a strong entry point into North American automotive manufacturing. Second, Siemens brought a couple of smart and visionary leaders into its North American division—Helmuth Ludwig and Raj Batra.

I no longer have a feel for market share, but given all the dynamic factors, I believe that Siemens has made more inroads than any of its predecessors. Rockwell has not indicated any concern, yet, with any counter moves. But things are heating up.

Siemens is pressing hard. This webinar that shows the capability of TIA Portal is a start. (I’ve seen the product. It looks good. But then, so does Studio 5000. Competition is a wonderful thing for customers.)

Siemens is also making the biggest company splash at next week’s ARC Forum in Orlando. The huge Yokogawa and Mitsubishi parties are in the distant past. GE has an invitation-only breakfast (read as, no competitors allowed). ABB has a lunch. But Siemens is sponsoring the Wednesday evening dinner and party at Epcot with a special press event preceding.

As I’ve often said, I love competition.

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