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Large Turnout for RSTechEd Discusses Productivity, Value of Information

A reported 1,800 software enthusiasts descended upon Orlando's Rosen Shingle Creek for the annual Rockwell Software user event, RSTechEd.

Frank Kulaszewicz, senior vice president control and architecture at Rockwell Automation (, discussed customers' needs for productivity and what Rockwell Automation was doing to help. Indeed, during the three sessions I sat in--led by practitioners (end users)--productivity was the key word. Kulaszewicz discussed Rockwell innovations that lead to that increased productivity mentioning specifically Ethernet, virtualization (a really hot topic among users) and "the cloud."

Specifically concerning the cloud, a major joint announcement from Rockwell and Microsoft ( during the conference (, M.G. Bryan Equipment Co., a heavy equipment and machinery OEM for the oil and gas industry, is using Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud computing platform for remote asset management of high-tech fracturing equipment in a project designed and integrated with Rockwell Automation.

Rockwell Vice President Kevin Zaba showed off several new products during his keynote. One announcement was a new version of programming software that will be released at Automation Fair in November--Studio 5000. Studio 5000, which will launch in the 4th quarter (planned) with Logix 5000 and View 5000 modules. Perhaps the coolest thing is that all the tags and configurations and the like will reside in the controller. Studio 5000 is the framework, which you mostly won't see. It plugs directly into the controller. Logix and View will be the plug ins into the framework. It's all truly integrated.

Consolidating information from the sessions I was in, the keywords are metrics, getting information and using the information and metrics to drive better decisions boosting productivity. The encouraging thing is that there are so many doing it--and so many trying to find ways to do it better. The sessions were uniformly packed with interested attendees.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) continued to draw attention, but to mixed reviews. Most everyone (except top managers) realize that the big problem with OEE is achieving standardization in data definition and input into the terms of the equation.

Taking a page from the MESA International ( playbook, Rockwell hosted a daily "unconference." These are unstructured discussions around a common topic. The sessions were well attended with many people sharing concerns and achievements. Some important concerns included:

Gaining consensus and agreement across plants and corporate level on definitions

  • Agreeing on which KPIs are crucial and not trivial
  • How to measure the things that make the most difference for profitability
  • How to handle manufacturing personnel tendency to just make things work--do workarounds--and not report them so that improvements cannot be documented
  • Governance of data flow from controller to ERP
  • How to get approvals to build the appropriate infrastructure to prepare for MOM and MES
  • How to deal with the deep cuts in plant IT personnel

Video Report: Click here to watch Gary Mintchell's report from the RSTEch Ed event.

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