In an interview with Control's Walt Boyes at this week's Automation Fair 2009, Som Chakraborti, Rockwell Automation's business director for process automation, Lee Lane, business director for controllers, Victor Swint, vice president and general manager of Rockwell Automation's motion control business, and Anne Vondrak, Integrated Architecture global market development manager, discussed multi-disciplined control and the concept of plant-wide control.
"The heart of it all is the Logix 5000," Lane said. "The concept of a single software platform with a single hardware platform is a game-changer. It brings down the automation life cycle to a robust design and architecture. Integrated Architecture is total plant control in a single control environment and a single software package from one end of the plant to the other."
Chakraborti said that he believed that the message that is resonating with end-user customers and OEMs alike is the operational simplicity that plant-wide control provides. "Instead of two or three or more control platforms, plus information management platforms, the ease and flexibility of working on a single multi-disciplined control and information system is breathtaking," Chakraborti said.
"It's not just equipment and equipment control anymore," Lee Lane chimed in. "We have all the disciplines. It's what kicked off the PAC in 2002. It's the single platform. It's the IA core that is the real story. That's where the magic happens."
Chakraborti said, "People who are interested in plant-wide control, in the benefits that multi-disciplined control can bring to their enterprise, are those people who are interested in operations that dictate profits in the future, rather than profits today. That's why the early adopters of plant-wide control were in what I call the ‘consumer-facing industries' rather than the classical process control companies. The drivers are different based on the industry, flexibility versus efficiency," he said. "I think that there isn't a consumer-facing company of any size that isn't doing supply-chain optimization and plant-wide optimization—and those are the companies that plant-wide control and multi-discipline control really speak to."
He added, "We are pleased at the acceptance of PlantPAx, and it is very clear to end-user companies that PlantPAx is not just another DCS…it is a plant-wide control system. It is more than a DCS."
That means that the way Rockwell Automation has to sell PlantPAx and Integrated Architecture—indeed all the way down to multi-disciplined control—has to be extremely different from the classical "here is our product, isn't it great" approach. Anne Vondrak, said, "I used to head global sales training, and it is very different. We have to focus sales training on competency—multi-competency. Sales competency is more like becoming a consultant, and we teach that in the sales training that accompanies Rockwell Automation On the Move, the regional version of Automation Fair. It costs more to educate a consultant instead of a catalog carrier, but it is well worth it."
Lane noted that to be a competent Rockwell Automation field salesperson requires domain expertise, applications knowledge and some serious business skills, because of the fact that multi-disciplined control, plant-wide control and plant-wide optimization have significantly different customers within the same plant.
"But global competition is forcing change," Lane said. "The increases in technology and the astounding access to information that we have now are changing how we shop. I don't buy a car the same way I used to, and that maps to industrial purchasing as well. We used to design plants to make one thing a million times. Now we're closing in to a concept where we will need to be able to make a million things once for each person and make them differently."
The success of optimization across plant, the enterprise and the supply chain relies on the ability to easily and seamlessly integrate different disciplines within the plant environment without expensive custom coding and long project duration. What makes PlantPAx work also makes motion control systems work, makes video inspection systems work, makes traditional PLC applications work, makes packaging systems work, and so on. "Motion control is an integral part of the Integrated Architecture," said Swint, "Everything that Som and Lee have been saying is exactly right. We have all the disciplines in one common platform."