Taking the third trip to Orlando in four weeks, I felt that I should know the TSA agents by first name. Rockwell Automation held its annual software training and bash formerly RSTechEd now called ROKLive. Not only was this the first after a Covid hiatus, it also celebrated the recent addition of Plex Systems and its cloud-based MES platform. 

Plex was acquired some nine months ago. This event offers the Plex community some continuity while bringing them into the Rockwell Automation fold. About 1,500 people attended filling the Loews Sapphire Lake resort in Orlando and its many meeting rooms for updates and lab training.

Rockwell CEO Blake Moret did not attend in person, instead sending a video for part of the opening keynotes. He talked of the company’s focus on helping customers along the path of productive, resilient, agile, and sustainable. He noted that Rockwell as a manufacturer itself knew the power of IT and OT working together. Rockwell’s strategy focuses include its core products, software & services, and industry focus.

Brian Shepherd, sr. Vice president software and control, emphasized these pillars under the “Connected Enterprise Production System”: optimize production, empower the workforce, manage risk, drive sustainability, transformation.

Rockwell Automation through acquisition has entered the 3D system emulation arena. However partner company Maplesoft representatives showed me its simulation application. It looks powerful. Also on the show floor was old standby Spectrum Controls showing a cool connectivity multi-port module that takes in serial protocols such as DF1 or Modbus and exports Ethernet. If you are constructing a connected enterprise, you will need connectivity devices.

I took a look at the future on the show floor and some follow-up sessions on FactoryTalk Hub and its Design Hub, an internal Rockwell development taking control design to the cloud. It will be more formally unveiled at Automation Fair later in the year, but this powerful cloud-based application brings benefits such as collaboration and version control to Rockwell’s Design Studio offering. Operate Hub, the Plex SaaS MES and operations offering, and Maintain Hub, the Fiix CMMS in the cloud complete the FactoryTalk Hub solution. Three years ago no one would imagine my writing about Rockwell and the cloud in the same sentence. Not only has the technology progress but so has acceptance of users.

Rockwell and Plex released a few news items.

Rockwell Automation Named a Visionary; Plex Systems Named a Leader in 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Manufacturing Execution Systems

Analyst firm Gartner unveiled its MES Magic Quadrant. Included companies always rush to get the word out. Rockwell Automation announced it has been named as a Visionary for its FactoryTalk ProductionCentre and Plex Systems named as a Leader for its Smart Manufacturing Platform. Congratulations to each.

Plex Systems Announces Modularization of its Smart Manufacturing Platform to Scale with Business Needs

Plex Systems announced a new modularization approach for its Smart Manufacturing Platform to enable accessibility and scalability for digital transformation in manufacturing. This approach, enabled by Plex’s innovative cloud-native platform, more closely aligns with customers’ needs as they build their smart manufacturing technology strategy, including a focus on flexibility, quick implementation, and ease of entry with a path to grow.  

Three examples of the new modular solutions include:

• New Product Introduction and Management: Maximize profitability and increase competitive position by reducing time to market and decreasing development costs.  Companies can manage the product and program lifecycle – from concept to completion – and effectively track new and existing products, including updates, retirement, and obsolescence.

• Labor and Workforce Management: Optimize labor schedule and costs while preserving delivery schedules through effective labor management, clear skills-to-required production capabilities, reduction of onboarding time, and programs for employee health and safety.

• Advanced Quality: Proactively manage supplier quality and compliance with integrated continuous improvement toolsets and extend quality processes throughout the full supply chain to promote a holistic quality culture both inside and outside the four walls of the organization.

Plex Systems Introduces Machine Learning to Help Companies Improve Demand Forecasting Accuracy

Plex Systems also announced new machine learning capabilities for Plex DemandCaster Supply Chain Planning (SCP), enhancing forecast accuracy to improve customer service at lower levels of inventory coverage.

Plex DemandCaster Supply Chain Planning unites business functions within the organization with their planning variables to solve inventory problems quickly and proactively, helping planners easily interpret data with automated statistical forecasting while enabling a continuous planning and execution feedback loop. Now, the addition of machine learning for DemandCaster SCP advances the automation of pattern recognition and the application of correlated related data to improve forecast accuracy. Higher forecast accuracies cascade through the supply chain planning process by reducing the need to carry extra inventories to buffer against uncertainties. 

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