New Factory Jobs Coming To America–Maybe

New Factory Jobs Coming To America–Maybe

We keep touting manufacturing jobs in America. An electronics assembly company has announced another plant in the US. When a process automation company lands a contract with a customer, it sends a press release touting the fact. But in process industries, the amount of the contract can be significant.

I seldom see one in discrete manufacturing.

On the heels of the Taiwanese manufacturer known as Foxconn announcing plans to perhaps build an assembly plant in Wisconsin, local automation supplier Rockwell Automation announces a partnership.

Main Point: This may be the most significant release I’ve ever seen from Rockwell. Not in terms of business value. Read this carefully and tell me where there is a product mentioned! This encompasses two things–one is workforce development and training. The second thing is a strategy. Sure, there will be products involved probably. But Connected Enterprise sounds more strategic, more consultative. This is decidedly not one of those things where we’ll cut you a deal if you buy 5,000 PLCs.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I’m thinking this signals a direction shift under new CEO Blake Moret. Could be interesting times.

Downside: However, my research on Foxconn and America reveals a pattern of big announcements followed by little activity. For the people of rural Wisconsin, I hope this time they follow through.

News: Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd., also known as Foxconn, and Rockwell Automation announced July 28, 2017, that they are collaborating to implement Connected Enterprise and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) concepts for smart manufacturing in Foxconn’s new U.S. facilities.

The companies will also collaborate to develop and apply Smart Manufacturing solutions at Foxconn’s global electronics assembly operations and within the related industry ecosystem. Technologies and extensive domain expertise of both companies will be combined to deliver a state-of-the-art manufacturing system with unparalleled levels of operational efficiency.

Terry Guo, Foxconn chairman and CEO, said, “I am very excited about the opportunity for Foxconn and Rockwell Automation to work together. Foxconn is the global leader in electronics design manufacturing, and Rockwell Automation is the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and information. I am confident that together we will increase operational efficiencies in electronics manufacturing to new levels, achieving the vision of Smart Manufacturing and Made in China 2025.”

The companies will also work together on workforce development and training. Specifically, as Foxconn increases its employee base in the United States, it has committed to participate in the previously announced program developed by Rockwell Automation and ManpowerGroup to upskill military veterans and create a pool of certified talent for in-demand advanced manufacturing roles across the United States.

Blake Moret, Rockwell Automation president and CEO added, “We are excited about the opportunity to work with a global technology and manufacturing leader to deliver advanced IIoT solutions to the electronics manufacturing industry. Our work with Foxconn will further demonstrate the power and broad applicability of The Connected Enterprise. We are also pleased that Foxconn shares our commitment to expanding and upskilling the U.S. workforce to ensure there is the necessary talent for advanced manufacturing roles.”


Festo All About Connectivity at Automation Fair

Festo All About Connectivity at Automation Fair

Rockwell Automation was all about Connected Enterprise at Automation Fair 2016. Festo joined in the fun showcasing seamless connectivity with Rockwell Automation’s factory automation and process automation architectures in such areas as:

  • IO-Link Premier Integration
  • Ethernet/IP
  • Integrated Architecture Builder (IAB)
  • Studio 5000 Software with L5K export
  • World class training

Ethernet/IP is the primary interface node for Festo pneumatic solutions, which now extends to the sensor level with process data, service data, and events information because of IO-Link Premier Integration. The IO-Link section of the Festo Flexible and Modular Automation exhibit features products that facilitate top down/bottom up integration.

Encompass products on display include the Festo CTEU bus node for easily adding Fieldbus connectivity to pneumatic valve terminals. Fieldbus connectivity to valve terminals also significantly reduces installation and engineering costs. The CTEU bus node inexpensively integrates Rockwell PLCs with multiple Festo valve terminal models, including MPA-L and the VTUG. Since a single CTEU node serves two valve terminals, it contributes to lower inventory requirements and simplifies logistics.

The MPA-L is a modular valve terminal suitable for most pneumatic applications for discrete and process automation. The high flow rate to size ratio makes for universal applications from food and beverage packaging to semiconductor fabrication. MPA-L can run pressure and vacuum, with multiple zones. The VTUG is an electrical terminal for solenoid valves. It provides diagnostics via fieldbus and has up to 24 valve positions. Festo valve terminals offer two functions on a single valve positon for greater functionality in a small footprint terminal.

Also on display are the IO-Link integrated SDAT analog sensor for reporting the piston position of a pneumatic cylinder and the VPPM proportional pressure regulator with IO-Link for greater data transfer and diagnostic information availability. IO-Link Premier Integration provides the data foundations to Industry 4.0 concepts and Industrial Internet of Things IIoT functionality.

The highest level of safety

Festo features the Encompass product MS6-SV-E soft start and quick exhaust valve which can be used with GuardLogix Integrated Safety applications.  MS6-SV-E reduces pressure quickly and reliably and builds up pressure gradually in industrial pneumatic systems. The pneumatic system safety device is a self-testing, redundant system conforming to the requirements of EN ISO 13849-1. Thanks to the 2-channel design and its monitoring, the device fulfills category 3 and 4 requirements, which enables a performance level “e” to be attained – the highest safety level.

21st Century mechatronic training

Festo Didactic, one of the world’s leading providers of mechatronic training, showcases in the Festo Flexible and Modular Automation exhibit its curriculum supporting Rockwell PLCs. The Festo Didactic product and service portfolio offers customers holistic education solutions for all areas of manufacturing technology and process automation, such as pneumatics, hydraulics, electrical engineering, production technology, mechanical engineering, mechatronics, CNC, HVAC, and telecommunications.

Festo All About Connectivity at Automation Fair

Safe Machine Technology Brings Production, Engineering, EHS Together

This is another of a series of posts from the Rockwell Automation show Automation Fair last week. This stop on the tour concerned Safe Machines. The safety team has been active for many years now developing new products and initiatives. Not everything they do is expressly pointed at selling a product. Often they are out in public teaching safe machine practices, risk assessment, and safe machine design.

They showed a BevCorp machine that had been designed with the latest safety advances in mind. The idea involved removing incentives to defeating safeties. One feature is an ultra-wide door that allows access to more of the machine.

The safety system has a “request to enter” function. This is a high inertia filler machine. Activating the function begins with guiding the machine to a slow stop at a repeatable location. Therefore the controls always know status without requiring a reboot. Of course, there is a safe reduced speed mode to allow maintenance without a shutdown.

Integral with the Connected Enterprise philosophy of Rockwell Automation, the HMI and software collects data on who/what stopped the machine, which safety devices were triggered, and the like. From this data, employee behavior can be ascertained.

This leads to the real value of Connected Enterprise–production, engineering and EH&S can come together to evaluate the entire system from all points of view. The goal is to maintain productivity through use of a safe machine.

I’ve followed Rockwell Automation safety for years. In fact, I can remember classes in the 90s before becoming an editor on risk assessment and the launch of safety products. There have been two popular podcast interviews at Automation Minutes one on Safety Automation Builder and the other on the Safety Maturity Index.

This is the last stand where I had a deep dive. Following will be a review of partners who also exhibited at the Fair. Then it will be on to the next conference–which I couldn’t visit in person, but I have some interviews.

Festo All About Connectivity at Automation Fair

Rockwell Automation–A Software Company?

I put on the pair of magic glasses. Immediately I was transported to a magic land of another reality. I saw things floating in front of me. I could walk around objects and view them from every angle, but I couldn’t touch them.

There was a white dot. I focused on the dot and brought my hand up to eye level forming a fist with fingers on top. Then I opened my fist like a jasmine bud you drop into hot water to make fragrant tea. And a computer screen appeared before my eyes.  I raised a finger, pointed to a button, brought my finger down and then back up as if clicking. And a machine started.

No, I had not smoked something. (Although people suspect that in my days at university… well that’s another topic for another day!)

Perhaps you’ve seen the TV ads for the Samsung phone with Virtual Reality (VR) goggles? I was wearing a real product–the Microsoft Hololense. This is Augmented Reality (AR). I could see people walking through the first machine. I could see the actual machine in the second scenario. I controlled the fan speed of the real machine without touching anything. People watching would only see me waving my hand.

Yes, this was last week in Atlanta at Automation Fair sponsored by Rockwell Automation. At a stand called modestly enough The Future of the Connected Enterprise, they showed these working examples of AR in a manufacturing setting.


Let’s be honest. In 20 Automation Fairs I’ve attended, I’ve never felt like I’ve seen the bleeding edge of technology. Cool new products? Sure. Rockwell kept advancing with the times. The Logix engine was an advance in the state of the art followed by Studio 5000. But that has been some time ago. This year just felt differently.

First there was a live demo during the media day that included information solutions. Next was the Innovation Zone demo of AR. Finally was a dive into Information Solutions–something initially highlighted by new CEO Blake Moret.

First an admission and some definitions. I stole the headline of the piece from both ControlGlobal and Automation World. I think I saw it in both places on the Web last week. Now the description–Rockwell calls “Software” its software for HMI, programming, and the like. What really has been building is “Information Solutions.” More accurately, the headline should have been, “Rockwell Automation, An Information Solutions and Services Company.”

An Information Solutions Company

11-10-16-scalable-analyticsInformation Solutions and Process Solutions are headed by the same VP/GM, John Genovesi. Process had been growing for several years, but it seems to have leveled off lately. Information Solutions was front and center featured this year. My industry research this year revealed that IS accounts for the bulk of revenue increases within the “Connected Enterprise” strategy. And that makes sense.

One of the deep-dive interview opportunities offered me this year was the Information Solutions group. Spokesperson Khris Kammer told me that there were four pillars to discuss this year–Scalable MES, Scalable Analytic, Connected Services, and Collaboration/Teams. I’ll have more detail on product releases from the first two. Connected Services was touted by Moret during our interview.

The traditional challenge for MES has been its monolithic nature. If you want MES, you must buy a big chunk. Rockwell has been working on this customer challenge and barrier to entry. Rockwell introduced “suites”, but that did not address the entire problem. Now are “fit-for-purpose” apps–quality, production, performance. Read more below.

Analytics became the domain of data scientists through “Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence” (EMI) which was a spin-off from enterprise Business Intelligence. Rockwell partners with Microsoft PowerBI, but it also worked on the scalable aspect to bring customers in a little at a time. Built upon existing products Historian and VantagePoint, developers built Analytics for Devices and Analytics for Machines–a cloud-based broader solution. Read more below.

Connected Services blends service in networks, security, and managed services. This has been a growing part of Rockwell’s business and now receives the attention and focus of landing as part of the Connected Enterprise strategy.Collaboration features a Web-based, HTML5 app called TeamOne. The team demonstrated it to media in perhaps the first live demo at a Rockwell keynote. Figuring that pretty much everyone already brings a smart phone to work, this app is IT-friendly and allows chatting, information access, video capability, and more among selected members of a team. These personnel may be in the same area, scattered around a facility, or even remote if necessary.

Scalable Analytics

“Our Connected Enterprise vision has always had analytics and collaboration at its core,” said Genovesi. “As we expand our Information Solutions offerings, a primary goal is to make analytics more approachable and right-sized for the customer. New analytics solutions help our customers move ahead on their Connected Enterprise journey, no matter where they are today.”

The new offerings expand capabilities for analytics across the plant floor for devices, machines and systems, as well as throughout the enterprise. In this approach, analytics are computed and gain context closest to the source of decision at the appropriate level in the architecture to return the highest value – from edge devices to the cloud on a variety of new appliances, devices, and on- or off-premise cloud platforms.

FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices appliance provides health and diagnostic analytics from industrial devices. It crawls your industrial network, discovers your assets and provides analytics by transforming the data generated into preconfigured health and diagnostic dashboards. The system also delivers “action cards” to your smartphone or tablet if a device requires attention.

At the machine level, FactoryTalk Analytics for Machines cloud application provides equipment builders access to performance analytics from deployed systems to help support their customers via the FactoryTalk cloud. For manufacturers, this capability capitalizes on connected technologies to help drive higher availability and output while reducing maintenance costs.

Rockwell Automation now provides a predictive maintenance solution that can predict failures before they happen and generate a maintenance work order to avoid costly downtime.

Scalable MES

Rockwell Automation has released the following applications, with more to come in the future:

FactoryTalk Production Application a scalable MES solution that addresses the challenges associated with enforcing processes in manufacturing. This application integrates with ERP, and tracks the order and recipe parameters necessary for production.

FactoryTalk Quality Application allows manufacturers to easily and efficiently model and enforce their plant’s in-process quality regimens at a scalable rate. Manufacturers can use the Quality application on a project basis and scale up when value is proven.

FactoryTalk Performance Application is a modular application that assists manufacturing companies with factory efficiency and production improvement. By providing visibility into the operations performance, this application allows for lean and continuous improvement, preventive manufacturing, improved asset utilization and operational intelligence.

Each expanded MES application is implemented on thin clients for a modern user experience and reduced, IT infrastructure cost. Users can add on each application to their current framework, helping protect their current investments while realizing these additional benefits.

Automation Perspectives Kicks Off Rockwell’s Automation Fair 2016

Automation Perspectives Kicks Off Rockwell’s Automation Fair 2016

Every year as part of the Automation Fair experience for media and analysts, Rockwell Automation hosts a “Perspectives” forum on the Tuesday prior to the two-day trade show. Executive and guest experts discuss trends and technologies affecting manufacturing, production, and automation.This is a short introduction. I had two days of deep dives into technology. A bunch of posts to follow. The photo is a panel led by CTO and SVP Sujeet Chand.


This year’s event featured several Rockwell executives plus guest speakers from McKinsey & Company, Microsoft, Cisco, and Georgia Tech. Reflecting a new mood within the company, the Architecture and Software group featured a couple of demos including some bantering and “gee whiz” moments. I have long felt that a technology company should show off some products that way. They did a good job–especially for a first effort.

Bob,Stemfels, senior partner, McKinsey & Company, gave a strategic overview presentation. “Digital disruption will fuel the next industrial revolution,” he noted. Some of the underlying drivers include increasing levels of data, ubiquitous connectivity, pervasive sensing, analytics driving understanding, and advance in cyber physical systems.

John Genovesi, vice president and general manager of Information Solutions and Process Solutions, provided an update on digitization in his areas. First, of course, Rockwell’s vision is based upon EtherNet/IP (did I hear “standard, unmodified Ethernet” again?). Genovesi pointed out that the cost of Ethernet is dropping enough so that devices of around $100 can be networked.

Fran Wlodarczyk, vp gm control and visualization, discussed Integrated Architecture. It is built on EtherNet/IP. They are working with “industry leading PLM suppliers” to build interfaces to integrate Design into the process. The Operate function is enhanced through analytics born in the automation system featuring self-aware devices. Maintain function is enhanced through the new TeamOne product—a mobile friendly app that incorporates chat, sharing pictures/videos and then also the thin client products added through the acquisition of ACP.

Scott Lapcewich, VP and GM of the Services business, discussed Connected Services–the latest addition to the Connected Enterprise. One of the key features about the offering involves managed services and remote services. These are sold on a subscription model involving operating budget monies while avoiding capital expenditure hassles. Network services, also involving Panduit, Cisco, and VMware, is the fastest growing segment.

There was more, but I’ll cover the topics discussed in depth later.

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