I have to admit, I’m much less tired than I’ve been this week relative to every other year beginning in 1997 at my first Automation Fair by Rockwell Automation. I sat in on a few Rockwell sessions and even squeezed in a robotic press conference from a different supplier. Busy day.

Bear with me a moment. One of my favorite philosophers is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He was a French Jesuit priest and a paleontologist. In one of his books, he used the metaphor of an ascending spiral to describe the history of evolution. Or, if theology is your hobby, try outlining John’s First Letter (from the Christian New Testament). It won’t come out Roman Numeral I with A, B, C and then Roman Numeral II, etc. That outline will also look like a spiral with each new idea ascending above the earlier one.

The reason I bring this up is that I listened to all the presentations and, with one filter in place, it sounded much like the same words as seven years ago. In fact, many of the ideas could date back 20 years. On the other hand, remove that filter and look at the presentations with a different filter, we see that everything is the same, but at a much higher level.

Each year, both the technologies and business contexts have grown over the year before until you realize that the seven-years-ago-me would not recognize much of the today-me.

The constant theme of several years returned in force this year—Connected Enterprise. And the Connected Enterprise does not work for customers unless the supplier brings partners. Rockwell Automation spokespeople prominently displayed this year’s premier partners—Microsoft, PTC, Emulate3D, Ansys, Kalypso.

Cloud is accepted as commonplace. It’s just one of the gang. Not a lot of discussion of Edge except for a short introduction of Microsoft Azure Edge technologies. Ethernet is now so commonplace that it was not mentioned. However, MES (the manufacturing execution software) received more mentions that a center midfielder in the English Premier League gets touches of the ball. Almost every case study mentioned it.

I went to the Milwaukee headquarters for the first time in the mid-90s for a week-long training class. It was brutal, by the way. But those of us smart enough to wait until we finished homework before we got our beer finished high on the list (I think I was 3rd in my class). One of the features was an automated manufacturing line for the new IEC-style contactors. Guess what? Featured this year was a brand-new automated assembly line making—contactors. It looked pretty good.

The contactor line was part of a Rockwell supply chain tour of plants in the US, Mexico, Singapore, and Poland exhibiting how Rockwell uses its own products plus those of its partners to maintain a robust internal supply chain.

The company has come a long way from the controller and contactor company I knew 30 years ago. They proved to me (not that I don’t have many other questions) that they are serious about the Connected Enterprise. It has progressed up the spiral.

Not to mention, this year I don’t have to travel on my Birthday, which is this week.

Share This