Rockwell Automation Hosts Busy Week for Users in Nashville

Process automation, safety and sustainable production were among focus topics at the company’s 17th annual Automation Fair.

More than 11,000 manufacturing experts from around the world gathered in Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 17-20 for the group of events bundled around Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation Inc.’s 17th annual Automation Fair. The week kicked off with the Process Systems Users Group. The Safety Automation Forum, jointly hosted by Automation World, was held on Nov. 18. The Automation Fair trade show was held on Nov 19-20, while educational sessions and forums continued through the week.

Keith Nosbusch, Rockwell Automation chairman and chief executive officer, met with Automation World during the event. When asked about the fortunes of automation suppliers in the wake of troubles in the auto manufacturing sector, he stated that diversification has been a goal. Process business has been good (28 percent for 2008 over 2007 organically, and 50 percent including acquisitions), while the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and safety areas have also seen growth. The newest initiative is sustainability. It’s not just about products, Nosbusch stated, but about helping customers achieve sustainable production.

During the week, Rockwell emphasized its continuing commitment to the process automation space, among other things, announcing its next generation control, known as PlantPAx.

Connected enterprise

On another front, Rockwell Software has been busy pulling together all the acquisitions of the past year. During this time of leadership transition, it is holding firm to the vision of the connected enterprise. Two new products shed light on the direction of the group.

Microsoft Corp., the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant, unleashed a new technology called Silverlight in time for NBC to use it to stream the 2008 Summer Olympics from China. Rockwell’s new FactoryTalk ViewPoint uses the technology for a Web-based thin client that allows users to remotely monitor plant-floor operations. FactoryTalk ViewPoint software supports fully scalable and animated Web displays of existing FactoryTalk View Site Edition (SE) visualization software and Allen Bradley PanelView Plus applications from the office, home or on the road via any Internet browser. While the initial release is Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) compatible, additional browser and device support is planned.

The company also launched FactoryTalk VantagePoint, an addition to its FactoryTalk Integrated Production and Performance Suite that allows end-users to self-configure rich, Web-based dashboards. It leverages service oriented architecture and technology acquired through the company’s purchase of Incuity Software to deliver automatic access to production information from both Rockwell Automation and third-party systems in an easier-to-use, cost-effective manner.

Sustainability defined

Rockwell defines sustainable production as encompassing energy, environment and safety. It has established a small team that will begin with assessments and services for customers. This is now a core focus for the company. Expect to see more about it as the team develops some momentum.

In the past, convergence for Rockwell meant information technology (IT)/manufacturing convergence, and the company defined it around the use of Cisco Ethernet switches. This year, the meaning is considerably broadened.

Cisco Vice President Paul McNabb told a packed room in his Wednesday morning keynote that convergence includes data, voice and video information sent over the network. Rockwell Automation Vice President for Information Systems Bob Honor further defined four areas of convergence: access to information, communication via standard unmodified Ethernet, integrated control with the Logix engine, and power management with intelligent motor control.

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