Rockwell Automation Posts Strong Growth;Predicts More to Come

The future looks bright for manufacturing automation supplier Rockwell Automation Inc. (, according to its chairman and chief executive officer, Keith Nosbusch.

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Sales for fiscal year 2006, which ended on Sept. 30, topped $5.5 billion, an annual increase of 11 percent, and operating earnings exceeded $1 billion, up 19 percent over 2005. The company, which is headquartered in Milwaukee, has seen significant growth in Asia, with China becoming the second largest world market for its Logix platform of programmable logic controllers (PLCs). As well, the company has announced a new global headquarters in Singapore that will include manufacturing, sales and support for five lines of its low-end SLC PLCs.

At Automation Fair, Rockwell’s annual user event held in Baltimore in October, Nosbusch outlined what he sees as an emerging collaborative production environment that is driving manufacturers to tightly couple their factory floors with business enterprise systems. Factors influencing this trend include the need to lower total cost of ownership, better optimize assets, accelerate time to market and broaden risk management.

Value, not technology

At a private meeting during the Fair, Nosbusch sat down with Automation World editors to expand on these concepts. “Rockwell Automation is in a unique position to add tremendous value for our customers,” said Nosbusch. In talking with his customers, he notes, “I listen to what they are saying are their biggest problems. It isn’t about the technology, it’s how we can use technology to address our customers’ needs.”

According to Nosbusch, manufacturers today don’t have the time to understand every new technology that comes along; they need to focus on how technology can transform their businesses. Manufacturing automation can add value by improving productivity and boosting competitive advantage, while also reducing business risks, through improved safety, quality and regulatory compliance. Said Nosbusch, “While underneath all of this is new technology, our job is to help [our customers] improve their P&L (profit & loss) and balance sheets.”

One unfortunate by-product of recent downsizing trends is that manufacturers have fewer resources available to devote to automation. Noted Nosbusch, “We see ourselves as filling that role. We’re paid for what we make—and for what we know. We know our customers’ industries, applications and business goals, and can fill the void in knowledge-base domain expertise.”

While the past decade has seen many changes in the world of manufacturing, Nosbusch predicts more to come in the next ten years. “Automation drove the first wave of manufacturing productivity, with improvements in consistency and quality,” said Nosbusch. “Information will drive the next wave. The utilization and deployment of information will provide a quantum leap in competitive advantage.” Nosbusch believes this competitive advantage is often found in the process, not the product itself. He maintains that Rockwell Automation delivers value to the manufacturing process through its automation and information solutions, and its domain expertise.

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