PSUG Growth Signals Continued Progress for Rockwell's Process Business

As Rockwell Automation gathers strength in the process space, a new release of the company’s PlanPAx DCS solution was among the first-day highlights of its Process Solution Users Group conference.

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Rockwell Automation Inc. (, the Milwaukee-based automation supplier, is hosting its Process Solutions Users Group (PSUG) conference Nov. 1-2 in Orlando, prior to its Nov. 3-4 Automation Fair users event. One opening day speaker noted that it was the largest  PSUG ever, which was later confirmed at 640 registered attendees. While some might expect that most attendees would come from consumer packaged goods (CPG), or perhaps pharmaceutical companies, attendees also came from oil and gas, and pulp and paper industries. This may be seen as another indication of the growth in the process industry segment for Rockwell, which was historically known for its strength in the discrete manufacturing industries.

The first announcement of PSUG was that Ken Deken, vice president of product portfolio and the executive charged with developing the process business, is retiring. Ralph Carter, who has been heading the information software group since joining Rockwell with the acquisition of Pavilion three years ago, will assume responsibility for heading the process automation business, along with his software duties.

John Nesi, vice president of market development, presented Rockwell's position on plant-wide optimization—sure to be one of this week's themes. Nesi first told the group that Rockwell has been investing in four specific areas—process, software, safety and solutions for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Plant-wide optimization includes integrated technologies and solutions designed to gather information and deliver it to appropriate systems and people. Nesi also addressed key points of challenge for attendees that included globalization, sustainability, productivity and innovation. Specifically, he linked sustainability and productivity into sustainable production, and to a new service from Rockwell—Industrial Greenpoint, a patented service designed to help customers achieve their sustainability goals.

Larry O'Brien, research director at ARC Advisory Group Inc. (, Dedham, Mass., presented attendees with several challenges that his research has uncovered in the process industries. These are people (recruitment, training), safety (building a safety culture), plant-wide optimization (information), installed base (migrating to modern control), operations and integrating commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products.

Serious growth

Som Chakraborti, Process Business director for Rockwell, presented an overview of the process business and a technology roadmap of where the company has come from over the past five to six years. There is no doubt that the company has progressed a long way in the process business on its way to becoming a serious competitor in the market. O’Brien had noted that Rockwell now appears in the ARC list of top distributed control systems (DCS) suppliers. Chakraborti also announced new products, including Release 2.0 of PlanPAx, Rockwell's DCS solution. New features include high availability, greater device integration and asset management, design productivity, batch and sequencing control advances and operations productivity.

Some of the other new features include:

•    System High Availability—New capabilities include EtherNet/IP network support for redundant systems and Device Level Ring network topology that provides a highly available EtherNet/IP network without any additional infrastructure costs. A new input/output (I/O) device line—based on ICS Triplex technology—adds redundant I/O capability for the system. PlantPAx System Release 2.0 also includes new diagnostics and error checking to help operators and maintenance personnel identify and resolve the root cause of a problem before disrupting production.

•    Device Integration and Asset Management—The PlantPAx system already had connectivity options, including Hart, Profibus-PA, and Fieldbus Foundation. PlantPAx System Release 2.0 expands on these offerings, adding the integration and asset management of other devices in the system, such as intelligent motor control centers, variable frequency drives, condition monitoring and power control components.

•    Design Productivity—Evaluation of the typical DCS configuration workflows has revealed a number of steps that can be simplified or accelerated. This includes initial sizing and architecture design, the creation of reusable engineering and template objects, and engineering and deployment tools for objects and diagnostics in the PlantPAx library.

•    Batch and Sequencing Control—New batch server software adds capabilities such as intelligent recipes, improved runtime user control, expanded data collection and reporting, and enhanced material management.

•    Operations Productivity—The PlantPAx approach to operations productivity is a three-tiered solution. At the most basic level, the Rockwell Automation historian collects key process data from within the controller chassis or via a server at the site level. Data is then analyzed in an information and decision support portal. This portal provides appropriate information about the production system based on user role. Then, as the third tier, PlantPAx System Release 2.0 offers optimization solutions. This optimization leverages advanced control techniques for single loops or unit operations, or more advanced model predictive solutions for an entire line or plant area.

PlantPAx System Release 2.0 will be available in the first quarter of 2011.

ARC Advisory Group Inc.

Rockwell Automation Inc.

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