The first business trip involving airplane and car in 18 months took me to Houston in November to Automation Fair, the Rockwell Automation user conference and trade show. They offered five press conferences via remote conferencing. I felt the urge to visit with people in person. Several thousand visitors wandered the show floor along with me. And I sat in the press conferences in person with a couple of editors from Control, a couple of analysts from ARC Advisory Group, an editor I didn’t know for one session, and an editor from Automation World for one other session. It felt good to be back, but this was hardly like old times. I was not rushed from appointment to appointment—I had no appointments.

The content was not like old times. No motor control or programmable controllers, although I did look up a PLC product person on the show floor to dive into a couple of things. The press conferences were somewhat IT oriented with cybersecurity and cloud, workforce issues around culture and diversity, and sustainability. Following are summaries of the press conferences and of three news items released at the show.

Cybersecurity Steps Needed for 2022

No discussion of industrial technology can begin without considering cybersecurity. Angela Rapko (Regional Vice President, Lifecycle Services, Rockwell Automation), Shoshana Wodzisz (Manager, Product Security, Rockwell Automation), and Theodore Haschke (Manager, Business Development, Functional Safety & Cybersecurity, TUV Rheinland) talked standards with us. High-profile cyber and ransomware attacks rocked the manufacturing industry in 2021 and raised government attention to the need for stronger oversight to protect businesses worldwide. Global cybersecurity standards have been established based on guidance from industry leaders for both the IT and OT level, but adoption still wanes. We’ll share how businesses can utilize standards to improve security in 2022, and why OT can’t be left behind when updating best practices.

Leveraging Culture and DEI as a Competitive Advantage

Bobby Griffin (Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Rockwell Automation) and Becky House (Senior Vice President & Chief People & Legal Officer, Rockwell Automation) discussed how many companies have put a more intentional focus on company culture and DEI – but how do you know you’re having the right impact? Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core principles at Rockwell. This has a KPI associated and manager’s compensation is tied to it. Among other things, check out the senior leadership page on the Rockwell website. There are women on it. And a couple of other faces that are not old white men. There is a refreshing mix of ages, genders, ethnicities.

Why Cloud? Why Now? Three Factors Driving Adoption of SAAS-Based Solutions

I could understand the discussion of cybersecurity, which can be expected given the several-year-old vision of Rockwell regarding the Connected Enterprise. The discussion of computing in the cloud would never have happened with a straight face even three years ago. Maybe two. Let us consider two very recent acquisitions of cloud-based companies—Plex and Fiix. Brian Shepherd (Senior Vice President, Software & Control, Rockwell Automation), James Novak (Chief Executive Officer, Fiix), and Bill Berutti (Chief Executive Officer, Plex) joined us for a discussion of the companies, products, and benefits of cloud. Yet another sign of a rapidly changing Rockwell Automation.

Using Data to Drive Productivity and Sustainability

Rockwell Automation has had sustainability goals and solutions for many years. This topic remains a key focus for the corporation. Tom O’Reilly (Vice President, Sustainability, Rockwell Automation) and Arvind Rao (Director, Product Management & Head of Industry Solutions, Rockwell Automation) met with us to discuss how “customers and investors are demanding that we do business in ways that are more productive and more sustainable.” Operational data and analytics can reduce waste, improve quality, and reduce energy, all while driving increased productivity and delivering results against sustainability initiatives.

Three Strategies for Creating an Agile and Flexible Workforce

Rachael Conrad (Vice President & General Manager, Customer Support & Maintenance, Rockwell Automation) and Sherman Joshua (Director, Workforce & Competency, Lifecycle Services, Rockwell Automation) revealed Rockwell’s on key strategies for creating an agile and flexible workforce post pandemic and how manufacturers can leverage their workforce as their greatest asset.

New Initiatives to Bolster Cybersecurity Offering for Customers

Rockwell Automation, Inc. announced new investments to enhance its information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) cybersecurity offering. These initiatives include strategic partnerships with Dragos, Inc. and CrowdStrike, as well as the establishment of a new Cybersecurity Operations Center in Israel.

Rockwell and Dragos, a global leader in cybersecurity for industrial control systems (ICS)/OT environments, have announced a partnership that combines Rockwell’s global industry, application, and ICS domain expertise with Dragos’s world-class technology, professional services, and threat intelligence services. The partnership will focus on incident response services and threat intelligence.

Rockwell and CrowdStrike, a leader in cloud-delivered endpoint and workload protection, have formed a partnership to deliver end-to-end cybersecurity and network service solutions to customers. The partnership will examine initiatives for CrowdStrike’s cloud-native, AI-powered Falcon platform with Rockwell’s global deployment, network architecture, support, OT, and managed services capabilities to deliver differentiated solutions that address customer cybersecurity pain points.

Rockwell Automation Expands Supply Chain Services with Acquisition of AVATA

Rockwell Automation, Inc. has acquired AVATA, a leading services provider for supply chain management, enterprise resource planning, and enterprise performance management solutions. AVATA has significant domain expertise in enterprise applications and is a leading consultant and systems integrator for Oracle cloud software applications.

By significantly improving end-to-end supply chain visibility and management, AVATA, together with Kalypso, Rockwell’s industrial digital transformation services business, will help further unlock the value of information technology/operational technology (IT/OT) convergence that Rockwell can deliver to customers. AVATA will be integrated into Kalypso, which is a part of Rockwell’s Lifecycle Services business.

AVATA supports Rockwell’s recent cloud-native investments, building on its open architecture to extend the digital thread and enable powerful integrations with other leading technologies, now including Plex and Oracle Cloud.

Rockwell Automation and Battery Pioneer Cadenza Innovation to Explore Driving Energy Storage and Advance Sustainability

Rockwell Automation has begun collaborating with Cadenza Innovation, the award-winning provider of safe, low cost, and energy-dense Lithium-ion-based storage solutions, to define a strategic relationship including a   shared goal of building the industry’s highest performance battery cell production lines.

During 2022 the companies intend to collaborate to develop a customer cloud portal to manage deployed distributed energy resources, an end-to-end battery manufacturing execution system (MES), and equipment automation to support the expansion of Cadenza Innovation’s battery manufacturing in the US and abroad.

Rockwell Automation and Cadenza Innovation intend to create a full digital thread that feeds information from business systems to the factory floor and subsequently out to the field-deployed energy storage systems to ‘close the loop’ by feeding data from the field back into Cadenza Innovation’s connected operations. This, in turn, will ensure peak performance of customer systems.

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