This week’s conference was called ROKLive. This is the annual Rockwell Software conference that has naturally morphed over the years. It was training for distributor tech specialists. This year was virtual only and seemed a bit more general. Themes this year could be cast as corporate strategy toward software and cloud. 

Software Strong

CEO Blake Moret has been making (for Rockwell Automation) bold moves during his tenure effectively remaking the company. It has always been a hardware product company.  Software was developed as necessary for support of the hardware products. You cannot, for example, sell a PLC without programming software. Or a drive without configuration software. Then a couple of small acquisitions moved the company tentatively into software in what was described to me as an experiment. And many of those acquisitions failed to fulfill the ambitions of the software leaders at the time.

Building the Cloud

Software is no longer relegated to an experiment. It has become a core part of the business. Rockwell made a huge investment in PTC gaining access to the IoT platform of ThingWorx and Kepware. This enabled a restructuring of the software group getting products to market quickly and surely contributing to both the bottom line and to customer satisfaction. For years they wanted to talk to me about asset management. Then I’d remember that that meant helping customers keep track of Allen-Bradley spare parts in their cribs. Now with the Fiix acquisition, Rockwell gained cloud expertise in addition to an EAM and CMMS suite. Further to the cloud was the recent announced acquisition of Plex giving Rockwell an updated MES product and even more cloud expertise.

At about the same time that I left magazine media and chose Manufacturing Connection (emphasis on connection) as a blog name, Rockwell Automation announced a corporate strategy called Connected Enterprise. I told the marketing executives at the time that great minds think alike <smile>. These investments flesh out that connected enterprise strategy building upon the Ethernet strategy established years ago.

Organization Alignment

Then there are the little corporate things I tend to notice. For many years the head of software was a VP level reporting to usually the SVP of control and automation. Now there is a Sr. VP whose title is Software and Control. Further, like many if not most organizations, the organizational structure had VPs in charge of businesses. If there was a technical or business reason for two products to work together the result would tend to cost one of the VPs bonus money. They have corrected that flaw to add incentives for executives to work together. Very good organizational move to forward overall business and technology strategy.

Weak on the edge

An IT conference was held the week before. One of the themes was “edge-to-cloud”. At least one presentation at ROKLive also discussed “edge-to-cloud”. I’ve already pointed out the beginnings of a cloud strategy at Rockwell. You would expect Rockwell to be an “edge” company. I attended a conference on that topic and came away less than enthused. The discussion included industrial PCs (IPCs) and a card in a PLC. If I’m in BusDev at a company with a solid edge compute solution realizing Rockwell’s newfound penchant for strong partnerships, I’m on the phone with an SVP or CTO with a pitch.

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