Rockwell Automation Makes a Splash in Anaheim

Despite dismal 2009 financial results, the company attracted surprisingly strong attendance at its annual Automation Fair extravaganza and associated events for users.

Rockwell Automation Inc. (www.rockwellautomation.com) held its annual users’ gathering Nov. 9-12 this year at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. More than just a two-day trade show featuring new product releases from the Milwaukee-based supplier and its partners, Rockwell each year sponsors several events at the same location. The 2009 version kicked off on Monday with the Process Systems Users Group and an attendance of about 500—a respectable number relative to several competitors, the economy and the location. Customers seemed more engaged than in past years, and Rockwell was showing products and directions revealing its firm intention to be a “real” process automation supplier.

Rockwell 2009 revenues were down by 25 percent overall. But revenues for the process segment were up by approximately 29 percent. This had to have Chief Executive Officer Keith Nosbusch smiling—process has been his target market since he assumed leadership in Feb. 2004. Among other advances, Rockwell’s approach to programming for process control is moving toward the “configuration” model of traditional distributed control system (DCS) vendors. Integration of various components, from programming to asset management, is moving along. Reflecting a general theme for the week emphasizing EtherNet/IP, Rockwell instrumentation partner Endress+Hauser (www.us.endress.com), Greenwood, Ind., showed a Coriolis mass flowmeter that communicates on EtherNet/IP (rather than Foundation Fieldbus or Hart). The Promass 83 will be available January 2010.

Safety Automation Forum

The Safety Automation Forum on Tuesday that is jointly sponsored by Automation World attracted close to 200 people—who heard some outstanding presentations. Mike Douglas, a senior manager at General Motors Co., described getting a safety culture and process going at GM. Another presentation came from Bryan Singer, chair of the International Society of Automation’s ISA99 committee and WG7 working group that focuses on bringing safety and security ideas together. Singer discussed the interface of safety and security, and dropped some warnings and things to watch out for along the way.

Automation Fair itself—a trade exhibition that is the “main event” for users—was packed and full of energy. Registrations were reported to be as strong as last year, with 30 percent fewer Rockwell people as part of the mix.  All of this took place in a region of the country not typically seen as a Rockwell stronghold, and with the economy still shaking out of its doldrums. This is a rare trade show these days where the aisles and booths are packed with people who have specific questions relating to real manufacturing problems.

Focus areas

Nosbusch, in his keynote to Tuesday’s media day and in a later private interview with Automation World, cited his six focus areas for the company: process, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs or machine builders), safety, sustainability, information and emerging markets. Thus far, the process target area is performing well and still growing. With the automotive market declining and areas such as food and beverage, and consumer packaged goods growing over the past few years, it has been no surprise that packaging machinery builders have been a specific Rockwell target market. However, this year, Nosbusch included converting and material handling as other OEM markets—and also process OEMs.

As for the “information” target, executives reported that success is taking a long time. Nosbusch said, “it’s an investment,” while Senior Vice President Steve Eisenbrown said, “it’s still in a formative stage.” But Nosbusch pointed out that there are many pilot projects in progress. Typically, for these projects, there is no baseline for comparison in order to calculate benefits derived. So customers are working toward proving out benefits in pilot projects, with the intent of rolling out to the larger enterprise later. Rockwell believes that its customers need to optimize their supply chains and that manufacturing software is there to help them do it. So the company’s executives profess optimism for the future of software.

Perhaps the most noticeable thing to those who have attended and reported on many Rockwell Automation Fairs is the continuing integration of the various parts of the company. One of Nosbusch's key strategic initiatives—smashing the silos of various product groups and getting them to integrate technology and vision—is now far along. This was obvious to editors who previously went from booth to booth getting a rundown of the latest products in the early part of the decade. At this show, there were still booths for components, control, software, sustainability and the like. But unlike the siloed mentality that was evident at past Automation Fairs, everyone at this year’s event seemed to be much more “on message,” talking the same technology, sustainability and company vision language.

Product launches

Among products announced during the week:

Rockwell outlined six areas of focus for its PlantPAx process automation system:  core process control capabilities; design productivity; process networks and field-device integration; asset management; process safety and critical control; and operations productivity.

Enhancements in core control will include alarm management capabilities and diagnostics. Integrating human-machine interface (HMI) software with system configuration tools will enhance design productivity. Field device integration includes the use of EtherNet/IP connectivity for process instruments.

Another process enhancement that brought applause from users when announced is support for virtualization solutions from VMware. Virtualization helps manufacturers build an infrastructure that better leverages resources and delivers high availability.

Updated Motion Analyzer software now provides interoperability with SolidWorks 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software. It delivers a highly graphical environment for designing machines and sophisticated motion profiles, and it is now capable of transferring motion profiles directly into Rockwell Software RSLogix 5000 software, helping to reduce programming time.

A portfolio of products and enhancements help provide high-performance, closed- and open-loop drive control on EtherNet/IP. The Allen-Bradley Kinetix 6500 servo drive and enhanced Allen-Bradley PowerFlex 755 AC drive now communicate on EtherNet/IP using Common Industrial Protocol (CIP) Motion and CIP Sync technology from the Open Device Vendors Association.

The new Allen-Bradley ControlLogix L73 and ControlLogix L75 programmable automation controllers (PACs) offer users enhanced memory technology, high-performance EtherNet/IP motion control and redundancy performance improvements.

FactoryTalk VantagePoint enterprise manufacturing intelligence (EMI) business intelligence software for manufacturing provides information from Web-based dashboards and reports on key performance indicators from multiple manufacturing and business data sources. It connects to multiple data sources—real-time, historical, relational and transactional ¬—to create a single resource that can access, aggregate and correlate information via a Web browser. The new application is based on a unified production model (UPM) that provides a unified view of seemingly disparate manufacturing data and gives a context for relationships among equipment, product, materials and people.

Endress+Hauser
www.us.endress.com

Rockwell Automation Inc.
www.rockwellautomation.com

Subscribe to Automation World's RSS Feeds for News

More in Control