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Manufacturing Pros Gather at "Industry's Largest Educational Forum"

If there’s a downturn in the automation industry, it was well disguised at the 2008 Automation Fair and conferences, held Nov. 17-20 in Nashville, Tenn.

Keith Nosbusch, Rockwell Automation CEO
Keith Nosbusch, Rockwell Automation CEO

This 17th annual event, hosted by Rockwell Automation Inc. (, the Milwaukee-based automation supplier, continued its successful formula by gathering more than 11,000 attendees from around the globe to what is billed as the industry’s largest educational forum for major manufacturers.

In his keynote address to industry media, Keith Nosbusch, Rockwell Automation chairman and chief executive officer, strongly advised manufacturers not to “feel like victims of the economy” during the unpredictable volatility of this challenging business climate. “Our objective is to continue to invest, to grow market share and to help our customers grow their businesses,” said Nosbusch. Rockwell Automation’s 2008 fiscal year sales total more than $5.7 billion, with 50 percent of that revenue coming from outside the United States. The company has set a goal of 60 percent revenue from outside U.S. borders by 2013.

Company insiders say that 2009 may see a decline of 1 percent to 5 percent in sales, but the company maintains a strong cash position and is well placed for future growth, with manufacturing centers located in China, Mexico, Poland and Singapore, and recent major acquisitions in process safety, life sciences, advanced process control and enterprise intelligence.

Manufacturing convergence

A central theme of Automation Fair was the convergence of four core disciplines—Information, Communication, Control and Power—into a common, contemporary platform that allows manufacturers to achieve higher levels of business performance by integrating manufacturing and information technology. According to Nosbusch, Rockwell is the first company to drive convergence, with its Logix platform, which provides multi-discipline, scalable and open solutions for machine, process, safety, information and power solutions. For a look at some new products introduced by Rockwell partners at Automation Fair, see

Paul McNabb, vice president of enterprise marketing for Cisco Systems Inc., the San Jose, Calif.-based network products provider, addressed a standing-room-only audience on the benefits of technology convergences. “Whether this downturn is a ‘U’ or a ‘V,’ there will be an upside. It’s important we take advantage of the opportunities convergence provides to optimize operations, drive innovation and create differentiation. You can be disrupted or you can be a disruptor.”

Safety, process events

Automation Fair week opened Monday, Nov. 17, with the Rockwell Automation Process Systems User Group (PSUG) meeting of more than 350 process industry professionals. Rockwell’s process systems business posted an impressive 28 percent organic growth in 2008, and about 50 percent growth from acquisitions. PSUG attendees were treated to a preview of the company’s Plant PAx  process system, which integrates technologies from many of Rockwell’s recent process-related acquisitions, such as ICS Triplex, Incuity and Pavilion Technologies.

The Safety Automation Forum (SAF) made its inaugural debut on Tuesday, Nov. 18. Automation World co-sponsored the first-time event with Rockwell Automation as part of a safety solutions program that includes e-newsletters (the Safety Automation Review), podcasts, Webcasts and live events. Rockwell Automation maintains a leadership position in safety solutions, ranking number two in the global machine safety market (with 9 percent market share) and number two in the global process safety market (with 13 percent market share), according to Nosbusch.

Highlights of the SAF included a keynote address from Charles Skaggs, the health and safety manager at Goodyear’s Alabama plant, on “The Business Case for Safe Automation.” In 2007, the plant was voted Goodyear’s most-improved, with a 61 percent better safety record, a 64 percent reduction in lost time and 34 fewer Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) incident reports.

In a session on Safety Risk Assessments, Heinz Gall, of TUV Rheinland Group, gave an overview of functional safety standards, Mark Lewandowski, of Procter & Gamble, discussed the importance of machine risk assessments at P&G, and Bill Sepe, of Sherwin-Williams explained his company’s approach to risk assessment. These major manufacturers agree that risk assessment is critical as both a legal and a moral obligation. After a serious incident in 2007, one manufacturer noted that the company had a “come-to-Jesus” moment that put safety risk assessment at the top of the agenda. Working with Rockwell Automation allowed the business to put in place a formal hazard tracking and follow-up process to identify and avoid potential risk.

Additional sessions at SAF included speakers from machinery maker Curt G. Joa Inc., automation provider AGR Automation Ltd., ICS Triplex and Rockwell Automation, who each discussed Safety in the 21st Century. For more information on safety solutions, visit

Rockwell Automation, Inc.

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