Automation Fair Number 25 Unveils Rockwell Automation’s New Leader

Automation Fair Number 25 Unveils Rockwell Automation’s New Leader

blake-moret-2016There is a discernible change in atmosphere around Rockwell Automation these days. The statement is not meant in anyway to reflect on former President and CEO (and still chairman) Keith Nosbusch. Newly elected President and CEO Blake Moret appears to be settling in to the new role, and he brings a distinctly new personality to leadership.

I was greatly honored that due to some schedule changes that created disruption with the usual media interviews on Tuesday he still worked out some time late Monday afternoon for a private interview.

When I left my last position, I searched for a focus and name for a new, Web-based media site. The Manufacturing Connection made the most sense—and I could get the domain name. Then I went to the first Rockwell Automation event following and found a new theme—Connected Enterprise. We’re all thinking about the importance of connections.

Moret started with the Connected Enterprise theme. His vision for the company’s direction includes and expands upon the theme. It’s not only EtherNet/IP (they still talk about “standard, unmodified Ethernet”). Networking is important. Beyond the network are connecting people, projects, services.

Not only did Moret present the importance of the Information Solutions business, the topic came up later in a general session. Rockwell has definitely grown the capabilities of its software solutions. Its analytics capabilities appear to be robust (Rockwell is using it internally in its own manufacturing processes) with the goal of continually improving its ease of use.

The foundation of Rockwell Automation’s Connected strategy lies with plant floor devices. “Since the majority of devices come from us,” Moret said, “we can connect easily to obtain the information necessary for the MES and enterprise levels.”

Several integrators pinged me before my trip to ask me to investigate the repercussions of the acquisition of system integrator Maverick Technologies. “We’ve always had a dual approach,” Moret told me. (That reminded me of my sales engineer days in the 90s when I had Rockwell quote a couple of projects as the integrator.) “We have no intention of walking away from our partners. But there are customers who want a single source of responsibility. We can handle those projects now.”

“And, by the way,” he added, “we doubled the number of Chemical Engineers in the company with this acquisition. We added a lot of domain expertise.”

The transition seems to be smooth so far. Leadership changes are a critical event in an organization. Handled well, the organization gains renewed vitality and direction. Rockwell Automation is on the right path.

Rockwell Automation Continues to Bet Big On Solutions Services

Is service and solutions the boost Rockwell Automation’s process automation business needs to take off? Talk on the street has it that the product side of the process automation business has not been as robust as it once thought. Meanwhile I’ve also been told that solutions and services, not products, has been the driver for growth in the Connected Enterprise initiative.

Then this announcement that Rockwell has acquired Maverick Technologies fits in all categories. Maverick is a major systems integration player. This following the acquisition of Automation Control Products, although both relatively small acquisitions, may show Rockwell Automation’s charted path to growth.

Two side notes in this announcement. First, this press release introduces Ken Champa as the new Sr. VP of the Control Products and Solutions business replacing Blake Moret in that role. The only mention I could find of him even on the Rockwell website is in Chinese. The second interesting thing (not mentioned in the press release) is that Maverick has become a major supporter of both ISA and MESA International over the past few years. Wonder if that will continue.

From the press release, “Rockwell Automation Inc. has acquired leading systems integrator Maverick Technologies to expand domain knowledge and help deliver innovative control and information solutions to customers in industries, such as chemical, food and beverage, and oil and gas. The acquisition significantly strengthens Rockwell Automation’s expertise in key process and batch applications to help its customers realize greater productivity and improved global competitiveness through process control and information management solutions”

“Industrial control and information solutions are most effective when they result from close collaboration between a knowledgeable supplier and the user,” said Ken Champa, Rockwell Automation senior vice president of Control Products and Solutions. “The combination of our global industrial automation leadership with MAVERICK’s platform-independent domain expertise will help our customers reduce complexity and realize unprecedented productivity.”

“We will continue to deliver our domain expertise, now with the power of a Fortune 500 industrial automation leader at our side,” said Paul Galeski, MAVERICK founder and CEO. “This creates the best combination available to help uncover the benefits of information that drives performance in process industries.”

Rockwell Automation Expands Technology Portfolio

Rockwell Automation Expands Technology Portfolio

Rockwell Automation has announced acquisition of Automation Control Products (ACP), a provider of centralized thin client, remote desktop and server management software. ACP’s two core products, ThinManager and Relevance, provide manufacturing and industry with visual display and software solutions to, as the Rockwell press release put it, “manage information and streamline workflows for a more connected manufacturing environment.”

I met Matt Crandell, ACP CEO, years ago at a trade show touting Linux, as I recall, to a Microsoft crowd. He and his team had developed a thin client technology (“dumb” terminals connected to a server) that brought 1970s and 80s era corporate computing into the modern age. He had good relations with Wonderware but I’ve noticed increasingly strong partnership with Rockwell Automation. This exit was probably the best he could hope for. Congratulations to Matt and the team for a good run and a good exit.

The press release gives us Rockwell’s justification, “This acquisition supports the Rockwell Automation growth strategy to help customers increase global competitiveness through The Connected Enterprise – a vision that connects information across the plant floor to the rest of the enterprise. It is accelerated by the Industrial Internet of Things and advances in technologies, such as data analytics, remote monitoring, and mobility.”

“Today’s plant engineers turn to our technology innovation and domain expertise to help improve their manufacturing quality and reliability while increasing productivity,” said Frank Kulaszewicz, senior vice president of Architecture and Software, Rockwell Automation. “With ACP’s industry-leading products now in our portfolio, we can provide new capabilities for workers as the manufacturing environment becomes more digital and connected.”

ThinManager centralizes the management and visualization of content to every facet of a modern manufacturing operation, from the control room to the end user. It streamlines workflows and allows users to reduce hardware operation and maintenance costs. Relevance extends the ThinManager functionality through proprietary location-based technology, enabling users’ secure mobile access to content and applications from anywhere.

“We are a perfect addition to Rockwell Automation’s industrial automation offerings that aim to increase reliability, productivity and security as well as lower energy and maintenance costs while implementing sustainable technology for leading global manufacturers,” said Matt Crandell, CEO of ACP. “We are confident that our customers will quickly see the value from our two organizations working to address their needs together.”

Rockwell Automation Expands Technology Portfolio

Product Day At Rockwell Automation TechED

Second day Rockwell Automation TechED keynote speakers drilled down into the weeds a little to flesh out the High Performance Architecture and Connected Enterprise themes from day one. Unusual for a second day general session, the room was about as packed as for day one.

There is little mention of Internet of Things at this conference—it’s sort of assumed as part of the Connected Enterprise. However, speakers went from one “standard, unmodified Ethernet” comment yesterday to many mentions today.

Product group vice presidents Fran Wlodarczyk (Control & Visualization), John Genovesi (Information & Process), and Scott Lapcewich (Customer Support & Maintenance) showed how their groups supported the company vision.

Wlodarczyk discussed controllers getting faster (leading to added yield for an automotive assembly plant), improved workflows and tighter integration with control in the visualization portfolio, and how the latest motion control products are self-aware (auto-tuning) and system-aware.

Genovesi, who has learned the languages of process automation and information systems well in his time leading the area, spoke to both.

“Rockwell Automation is uniquely positioned to drive value-based outcomes”:

  • Integrated Architecture that includes integrated software
  • Intelligent Motor Control (smart, connected assets)
  • Domain Expertise (Solution delivery)

When Rockwell finally made a real commitment to entering the process automation business, it specifically avoided the term “DCS” and used its “PAC” (programmable automation controller) terminology. A couple of years ago spokespeople made a point of saying they have a DCS. Genovesi said the Rockwell DCS brings a modern approach that established competitors cannot match. Plus, the Rockwell approach can be less expensive.

The Rockwell DCS (built on the Logix platform, but not a PLC) advantage is that it can integrate with other plant automation and control assets such as motor control.

On the Information Services side, he emphasized the partnership with OSIsoft—a company now saying it has moved from just a historian company to providing a “real-time infrastructure.” We’ve been in the Industrial Internet of Things for 35 years, the OSIsoft spokesman proclaimed.

Lapcewich listed five sets of services his group provides:

  • networks & security
  • product & application lifecycle
  • remote monitoring & cloud analytics
  • asset management & reliability
  • people & asset safety

[Note: when Rockwell discusses asset management, it refers to the types of electrical and automation assets/products it provides.]

Rockwell Automation Expands Technology Portfolio

Rockwell Automation TechED Connected

Moret Rockwell 2016I’m in Orlando at the annual summer gathering of Rockwell Automation distributor and customer tech specialists. This is where they go for training in current products and introduction to new ones. And to get a little fired up about the company.

Rockwell Automation currently bills itself as the largest company solely devoted to industrial automation. True to the billing, current Senior Vice President and incoming President and CEO Blake Moret told the 2,100 gathered attendees, “All we do is industrial productivity.”

Moret’s other significant quote revealed a huge cultural shift that Rockwell Automation has undergone under current CEO Keith Nosbusch—We describe the value of the Connected Enterprise to customers in language specific to each. That means that the company has learned to speak other terminology than discrete manufacturing and machine control. Historically it lost credibility by going into batch and continuous processing companies and describing offerings using the terminology of  discrete. Now they can talk pharma, or oil & gas, or whatever.

Chand Rockwell 2016Sujeet Chand, SVP and CTO, gave the technology keynote. Chand talked about connecting silos of information—something we’ve discussed for years but seems closer to reality than ever before.

He did not spend much time on trends (collaborative robots, wearables, mobility), but pointed out that many countries are starting advanced manufacturing initiatives. The danger of so many independent initiatives is that this could lead to multiple standards, which would be a mess. He urged us to work for common standards.

Chand reinforced the value propositions for the Connected Enterprise, Rockwell’s focus for several years:

  • Faster time to market
  • Lower total cost of ownership
  • Improve asset utilization
  • Enterprise Risk Management

Why do we care about IT/OT convergence—something else we’ve discussed for years. This convergence is a key factor for Connected Enterprise, however, another benefit is it leads to improved workflow.

Since I follow all things IoT, I found Chand’s “IoT Stack” interesting. It’s fairly typical, but he differentiates data abstraction from data accumulation in the mix and does not specifically use the term analytics.

  • Collaboration & processes
  • Data Abstraction
  • Data Accumulation
  • Edge Computing
  • Connectivity
  • Physical devices

Kulaszesicz Rockwell 2016Frank Kulaszewicz, SVP Control and Architecture, delved into High Performance Architecture. Fundamental to high performance architecture are devices that are self-aware. A photoelectric, for example, can send a notification that it needs to be aligned or cleaned. Or a motion control servo drive can be self-tuning. Stepping up from self-aware devices are systems that are “system-aware.”

Dean Kamen, prolific inventor and entrepreneur, was the “star” keynote.



Artist Rendition of Kamen Talk

He began with a bit of discouragement, “As society get older, adoption of technology slows.” But then he showed development of some of his notable inventions that have made the world better for many. There is the insulin pump, portable dialysis machine, prosthetic arms with such great control that people can pick up a grape and eat it without crushing the grape designed for people who have lost their entire arms. Lack of clean drinking water is the #1 killer of children globally. He invented “slingshot” a machine that distills and condenses water such that just about anything wet even from manure piles can be converted to safe drinking water. He partnered with Coca-Cola to get them distributed to areas of great need.

His greatest achievement is the invention of the FIRST Robotics competition. Begun in 1989 to inspire high school kids to develop a passion for science and engineering, the movement has spread to 86 countries.

Perez First Quote

Technology development, especially through the middle ages and even by technologists like Da Vinci, was for development of tools of war for their princely benefactors. Kamen’s vision is to challenge kids (and the rest of us) to develop technology to solve human problems. No Terminators, here.

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