Rockwell Automation Earns 10th Consecutive Perfect Score In Corporate Equality Index

I’ve had a hectic couple of weeks. Therefore, I didn’t post much last week, and I’m a bit late today. One of my brothers caught the corona-virus bug. One thing led to another, and I traveled back to Ohio last week for a funeral. We were four. Now we are two.

On the plus side of things, we visited Indianapolis over the weekend before to watch our granddaughter swim in a regional, invitation meet. As a 12-year-old, her times would put her in the top half of the high school league we left behind. On the other hand, she’ll have to improve those times to even make the team in the high school she’ll attend. They are much more serious about swimming up here in the west Chicago suburbs.

ARC Forum was to be next week, but it has been postponed to June. We were going to vacation for a week visiting my wife’s two sisters. However, she slipped on ice while hiking at a state park yesterday and broke her wrist. Now, we wait for the surgeon’s diagnosis and treatment later this week.

Like I say, crazy.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a communication link with a Rockwell Automation communications strategist. I told her that no company has changed as much the past five years as Rockwell. The software strategy seems more solid. The executive team has diversified bringing in women, minorities, and (gasp) outsiders. I’m also pleased that corporations are stepping in where governments fear to tread to improve things for society at large.

Here is news (with more to come) from Rockwell regarding its efforts in the area of human rights and equality. Oh, yes, I should mention before the news, that earnings and stock price seem to be doing well, too.

Rockwell Automation has earned a top score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index, the nation’s foremost benchmarking survey and report that measures corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ workplace equality. This is the 10th consecutive year Rockwell has earned a perfect score.

“Earning the top rating on this index is important to us because it’s one of the ways we can show potential employees that we offer a safe and equitable work environment,” said Rockwell’s Becky House, senior vice president, Chief People and Legal Officer. House also serves as executive sponsor of ROKout, the company’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group.

“We work to create an environment where all people can bring their full selves to work,” said House. “We listen to what our employees want and need, and we try to follow through with new benefits and other initiatives.”

For example, in 2021, Rockwell expanded its medical benefits package with enhanced coverage for transgender employees.

“Updating and aligning our healthcare benefits with our values demonstrates how we continually strengthen our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Rockwell’s Samantha Murphy, a system engineer and ROKout’s transgender liaison. “It’s one thing for a company to talk about inclusion; it’s another to carry it through.”

Established in 2013, ROKout provides a networking and support resource for LGBTQ+ employees and allies, helping to foster an inclusive workplace where all employees are empowered to be their authentic selves. The ERG is a valued voice for LGBTQ+ issues related to recruitment, retention, culture, and benefits.

“Congratulations to Rockwell Automation for working to advance inclusion in the workplace and achieving the title of ‘best places to work for LGBTQ+ equality,’” said Jay Brown, Human Rights Campaign senior vice president of Programs, Research and Training.

“When the Human Rights Campaign Foundation created the Corporate Equality Index 20 years ago, we dreamed that LGBTQ+ workers—from the factory floor to corporate headquarters, in big cities and small towns—could have access to the policies and benefits needed to thrive and live life authentically,” Brown continued. “But there is still more to do to create more equitable workplaces and a better tomorrow for LGBTQ+ workers everywhere.”

Human Resources In Supply Chain and Manufacturing

I have worked in manufacturing as an hourly worker and alongside hourly workers. Despite spending many years in management among some who held condescending views of them, I’ve found most hourly workers to be intelligent, hard working, and creative. Companies that have discovered how to build teams of “knowledge” workers and “hourly” workers have discovered rewards from increased productivity, reduced scrap, improved quality, and better relationships.

Although I seldom write on human resources, a white paper found its way to me called Human Resources in Supply Chain & Manufacturing: How Industry 4.0 Will Play Out. Authored by insiders from General Motors, Whirlpool, Alcoa, General Mills, and the Boston Consulting Group, this forecast and trend report for HR professionals in the manufacturing and supply chain industry contains insights and advice.

The authors of the paper have developed a technology to meet the demand for ways to foster communication between employer and employee. The company, TeamSense, was acquired by Fortive last year.

The authors are Sheila Stafford, a mechanical engineer who has developed a technology to systemize COVID-19 symptom tracking and is currently CEO of TeamSense, Alison Teegarden, a graduate of Stanford, Peking University and the Harvard School of Business, who developed a mobile text tool while at Pioneer Square Labs, and Eric Welke, a supply chain expert from Alcoa, General Mills and Yoplait.

TeamSense makes a human resources technology that is used by the manufacturing industry to revolutionize communications between deskless workers and their employers. The use of technology was utilized, specifically to close a communications chasm that currently exists between teams of hourly workers and their employers.

Industry 4.0 is upon us, yet 90% of funding for technology innovation ignores 80% of the global workforce, the hourly makers of the manufacturing industry. The shift toward smart factories, combined with the pandemic and labor challenges, has created a new blue ocean of opportunity for technology innovation to impact the manufacturing industry and the hourly workers who make it run. Specifically, there are many human resources processes in this industry in need of a next generation upgrade. Manufacturers need updated tools to attract and retain hourly talent and remain competitive in the future.

Despite it being a time in history when technology such as artificial intelligence has almost reached human levels of understanding, hourly workforces are often still being managed in antiquated ways. In 2021, supervisors are still making phone calls and leaving voicemails to call on / off team’s of 1000’s to 10,000’s of workers. Because hourly workers do not have corporate emails and some do not speak the same language as their employer, it’s not easy (or fast) to communicate with these teams. While it may seem unlikely, these practices persist in this industry.

There are many hourly worker processes that remain laborious, outdated and paper-intensive such as attendance, tracking COVID symptoms, sick days, onboarding, exiting and team announcements. Updated systems are needed to reach this population easily and quickly for emergencies and high stakes standard operating procedures, such as incident reporting. The opportunities that exist for technology to ease these burdens are endless, exciting and portend to skyrocket efficiencies for manufacturers.

The authors identify these six trends and offer advice to develop solutions. You can download the whitepaper and find the details.

  • Trend 1 — HR Tech to Enhance the Employee Experience
  • Trend 2 — “Anti” Technology and the Power Shift in the Employee/Employer Relationship (mobile phones)
  • Trend 3 — Employee-Centric Workplaces: The Art of Good Feelings and Retention
  • Trend 4 — Engaging and Retaining the Hourly Worker
  • Trend 5 — Meeting the Needs of the New Generations of Hourly Workers
  • Trend 6 — Talent Retention in a Post-Pandemic World

Communications Tool Mitigates Workplace Harassment

The contractors just installed in the men’s restroom in the factory would intermittently make a whirring sound and a little shutter would open. I had a first level management role in the plant at that time of the early 70s. The guys would talk to me. They wondered if it was a camera spying on them to see who spent too much time away from production.

It was a deodorizer.

But that suspicion has stayed with me.

So, that was my first impression when I received this press release regarding “Safe Communications Software” that looks at workplace email and chat communications in a company. As the company told me, people should be aware that any time they use any communication tool on the company’s servers they are not using a private communication channel.

Besides, this application is not designed for nefarious spying on workers but is designed to protect employees from harassment, discrimination, bullying, and even workplace violence. Proactive mitigation benefits everyone in the company as well as prevents those post-event questions and recriminations.

Here is the release:

CommSafe AI launched CommSafe AI Safe Communication Software. The software has received certification with ServiceNow, a leader in enterprise digital process automation tools. CommSafe AI also integrates with Microsoft products and Google Workspace accounts.

The CommSafe AI tool is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product that in near real-time allows companies to get ahead of threats of conflict and violence in the workplace before they escalate to situations of physical or psychological harm causing costly lawsuits. The tool uses artificial intelligence (AI) models to analyze company communication to identify toxic behaviors and IP loss.

The smart and scalable software integrates into a company’s human resource workflow to capture in real time toxic email and chat communications among employees. In addition, CommSafe AI employs algorithms not only to identify toxicity, but also poor sentiments.

Because employees feel safer knowing their company is taking steps to protect them from harassment, they are focused and more productive. Equally important, company brand reputation remains uncompromised.

For companies and employees worried about privacy concerns, the software does not monitor electronic communications; rather it scans and flags potentially toxic language and poor sentiment.

“All flagged messages are reviewed by HR staff to determine the next course of action. Additionally, CommSafe AI works with your organization’s systems and methodologies and easily integrates with your tech, case management system, and workflows.”

“Identifying toxic communications and behaviors are at the forefront of making the workplace a safe space for everyone. It’s the intelligent solution combining machine learning, human judgment and experience to help identify risks to your employees and the workplace culture,” adds Sanjit Singh, Chief Revenue Officer at CommSafe AI.

CommSafe AI’s subscription software is designed to uncover language associated with bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination and intellectual property theft. It works across email products including Microsoft Outlook and Google Suite, as well as collaboration tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams. The company worked with a select group of beta customers to perfect the algorithms. Emails and communication on a company server are never private and are actually the property of the employer. In a day and age where violence is escalating among organizations there has been a huge demand for this product. As we know Emails cross multiple channels and networks/servers to get from the server to recipient.

Rockwell Automation News and Updates

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.

Employee Well Being and Mentoring

What is your experience as an employee? I’d like to juxtapose two attitudes in this brief essay. The first one reveals the results of a survey that “finds a major disconnect between employees and HR in supporting wellbeing at work.” That one wasn’t surprising. My philosophy developed in the 70s holds that companies once had Personnel departments that viewed employees as people. These changed to Human Resources departments that viewed people as resources just like machines and switchgear and other resources.

Ken Bannister writes in the other piece about his experience with a mentor early in his career. Reading this one, consider people who have helped you along and who you should be helping now.

Major Disconnect Between Employees & HR in Supporting Wellbeing at Work

Half of employees feel stressed, and few are getting the support they need despite HR beliefs about wellbeing at work. Of the HR leaders polled, half (47%) say their company supports employee wellbeing, while just a quarter (24%) of employees agreeing — a major disconnect. That’s according to the new Empowering Employee Wellbeing in the New World of Work report from Achievers Workforce Institute (AWI). AWI is the research and insights arm of Achievers, the global leader in employee voice and recognition solutions that accelerate a culture of performance.

The global research surveyed more than 2,000 employed respondents and 950 HR leaders from Australia, Canada, UK and USA, and found just one in five (20%) employees say they feel physically and mentally healthy and less than one in five feel their physical wellbeing (17%) and mental wellbeing (18%) are supported by their employer. Nearly half (48%) of employees feel stressed, and of that group, two-thirds (63%) say their stress is related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we look ahead at the weeks and months to come, it’s easy to think that the worst is behind us with vaccinations on the rise and many businesses starting a phased return to the office. However, the wellbeing research from Achievers Workforce Institute shows that stress remains high, with COVID-19 as a key driver,” says Achievers Chief Workforce Scientist Dr. Natalie Baumgartner. “Almost one third of employees surveyed have taken leave due to stress, and this is even higher for marginalized groups. HR leaders need to understand how and why marginalized groups are experiencing heightened stress, otherwise inequities will deepen and result in cultural erosion over time.”

HR leaders are twice as likely as employees to say their organization supports employee wellbeing, including mental wellbeing. In addition, 40% of HR leaders feel their company offers employees resources to support their mental wellbeing, but just 18% of employees feel supported at work in managing their mental wellbeing.

This disconnect suggests one of two things: either existing programs are not being sufficiently communicated so employees are unaware of the available support, or these programs are reaching employees but not having the desired impact.

Achievers’ employee voice and recognition solutions bring your organization’s values and strategy to life by activating employee participation and accelerating a culture of performance. Achievers leverages the science behind behavior change, so your people and your organization can experience sustainable, data-driven business results.

Mentoring

I worked with Ken Bannister a bit when I detoured into working with a magazine called Maintenance Technology. He now works with a team of people I know who started a newsletter and website called The RAM Review. This essay can be found here.

As a young design engineer, I worked under the tutelage of my mentor Tedeus (Ted) Monkiewicz. Within this arrangement, I often accompanied him on visits to customer operations that were experiencing machine warranty issues/problems. At each sites, I was not to speak, but observe and record every little detail of the job, however inconsequential. Then, when we left a site, I would report to Ted on my findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

Ted typically would remind me in the customers’ parking lots to base my reports on my six senses. As he put it, “I want you to see with your fingertips, nose, and  ears, touch with your eyes, and say nothing until asked”.

In the process, Ted helped me to understand that a precision machine, built and set up correctly, should present only the faintest of vibration. (Any more than that level of vibration required further investigation into how the drivetrain components were fastened and aligned.) But, even more important, Ted taught me to ensure machine were treated with respect.

I would like to issue a challenge to all readers for the next time you approach a machine to troubleshoot a problem (as Ted always challenged me and his memory still does today). I challenge you to combine your training and experience with your six primary senses to “experience” and assess the problem in a unique, organic, and multi-dimensional way. Only this time, perform your sense assessment from the machine’s perspective.

Supply Chain Solution Provider Verusan Adds Executive Talent

I keep telling PR people that I’m not the supply chain specialist, but they assume among the 150,000 monthly viewers (estimated from my service provider) of this blog many will be involved with supply chain issues. I also seldom report on executive hires. In this case, I had an opportunity for a conversation with Christine Barnhart, new VP Product Strategy and Go-To-Market at Verusen, to discuss the career path of a woman in engineering.

Christine has an engineering degree. I related that in my freshman engineering class of 700 there were 7 women. One was in my engineering drawing class. The grad assistant would come in and give us the problem of the day. He’d leave a bunch of 18-year-olds (well, I was 17) alone for two hours. One guy was outspoken. He never directly harassed her, but he would say things generally designed to embarrass her. She just sat in the back corner quietly doing her work. Christine didn’t relate stories, but she did acknowledge that she had to develop the right attitude and learn to relate to a variety of other personalities.

That helped her in her first job following graduation working in maintenance at Whirlpool. I’ve could understand. Degreed engineers are already suspect among the workers. Go back 20-some years and women were also a rarity. She told me, “I never had the attitude that I knew more than other people.” That outlook on life will carry you a long way.

She also helped me understand more about what the PR people mean referring to supply chain. Her career path moved into materials management—inventory control, purchasing, and the like. I could understand that, because that’s where I began. She also lived through an SAP installation. Moving into the supplier side, she worked at Infor before leaving for this opportunity with a new company trying to forge a new path in the market.

In 2021 and 2018, Supply and Demand Chain Executive recognized Christine as one of the Top Women in Supply Chain. Christine has a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Evansville and she completed her MBA with distinction at the University of Louisville. She is certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) through APICs (ASCM) and as a Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute.

In her new role, Christine will work closely with Verusen’s product management, sales, and marketing teams as the company continues to expand upon its delivery of industry-leading innovation for its customers. Verusen’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform digitally transforms the connected supply chain, helping global organizations take a more digital approach to their materials management strategy and challenges. Christine will report directly to Paul Noble, Verusen Founder and CEO.

“Christine’s deep background in supply chain management and extensive engineering experience in building data-driven systems is a huge asset to Verusen,” said Noble. “We are thrilled to have such a visionary product leader join our team as we continue to innovate by combining data + human intelligence to accelerate resilient supply chains.”

“Verusen is an incredibly innovative and disruptive force in the supply chain industry,” said Christine Barnhart. “I am excited to be a part of the team, delivering material truth for data, inventory optimization, and procurement intelligence to complex global supply chains. It’s a pivotal time in our industry right now, and I am looking forward to building on the company’s success and the unique opportunities we have to accelerate growth and drive further efficiencies.”

Verusen is a Supply Chain Intelligence company focused on materials management that uses AI to provide complex global supply chains material truth for data, inventory optimization, and procurement intelligence. The company’s platform harmonizes disparate material data across legacy systems and processes while providing trusted data across the enterprise to reduce supplier and operational risk. The result is a data foundation organizations can trust to fuel digital transformation and support related Industry 4.0 initiatives.