If you're at Rockwell Automation's Automation Fair 2010 this week in Orlando, and you're looking for ways to connect, glance up on the show floor, and you'll probably spot the automation specialist's dome-like booth, where you can kick your feet up, converse with colleagues and learn about the plethora of ways to connect with Rockwell Automation and its partners. If you're not at the Automation Fair this week, there are a number of online opportunities to feel almost as if you are.
In his keynote presentation at yesterday's pre-fair Manufacturing Perspectives, MIT's Andrew McAfee reminded listeners that, on the web, the competition is always just one mouse-click away. Rockwell Automation has so many opportunities on its online network, it's keeping the conversation going in enough different ways that customers are staying engaged.
The Rockwell Automation Connection—its many facets on display in Booth 109 and online from the Automation Fair's website—is divided into four key areas of connection: Training and Events, Knowledge, Resources, and Current News. Some of these connections the company has had for years, such as its print publications and product locators; and some have been around for a year or less, including a broad presence on the full range of popular social media sites. "We want to make sure customers realize it's all out there," says Rebecca Archibald, Rockwell Automation's marketing manager, campaigns.
Rockwell Automation has embraced Web 2.0 and everything it encompasses, including some of the most popular networking and sharing sites: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare. The company has been deep into the social networking space for about a year, Archibald says. She points in particular to the Safety Automation Forum's LinkedIn group, which successfully carries on the discussion that takes place physically at the Automation Fair each year, not only for its customers, but also for its competitors. Other groups on LinkedIn include one for the Automation Fair; for RSTechED, an annual training event; and for Rockwell Automation overall. Each of those four entities have counterparts on Facebook and Twitter as well.
As the week rolls on, and more so after the Automation Fair is over, Rockwell Automation will be posting videos to its YouTube channel, pictures to its Flickr account and slide presentations to Slideshare. Although the company will not be posting every slide presentation to Slideshare because of the sheer number of them, Archibald says, selected papers will be uploaded, including a few from Manufacturing Perspectives (McAfee's keynote on Manufacturing 2.0 is up already).
All of these points of contact are essentially the tip of the iceberg to being virtually here. On perhaps a grander scale—and new this year to the Automation Fair—is the Virtual Automation Fair, found within the Resources section of The Rockwell Automation Connection. In many ways, this is a good tool simply for helping you prepare for your visit to the fair. You can quickly and easily map out your day, dragging workshops and forums into your schedule, compiling a list and descriptions of exhibitors you want to be sure to visit and making an easy print-out of your itinerary. But more is still to come, Archibald says. "We'll have video demos of a lot of new stuff in the booths," she notes, which will be recorded today and tomorrow. The Virtual Automation Fair will also be a place to go after the show to collect papers, brochures, etc., from companies that have scanned your badge during your visit.
Other Resources include the Partner Locator, Product Selection Toolbox, The Knowledgebase (online support, which has recently been made available in Spanish as well), Literature Library and Customer Success Stories (easily searchable by industry, location, customer, etc.).
The Knowledge section highlights Rockwell Automation's suite of print publications and e-newsletters, including the monthly Rockwell Automation eNewsletter; the quarterly e-newsletter, What Matters for Machine Builders; The Journal, a bi-monthly print publication; and Automation Today, Rockwell Automation's magazine that has a large number of regional versions printed in a full range of languages.
The Rockwell Automation Connection also includes information about local as well as online training and events. Such offerings include Rockwell Automation on the Move (RAOTM), a smaller, more local version of the Automation Fair; the annual RSTechED; Automation University in Europe; and various live and virtual training sessions.
Meanwhile, Rockwell Automation is also updating its website, and the new www.ab.com will be out by the end of the year, according to Archibald. Based on customer feedback, for example, the Product Locator will be much more user-friendly. In its current iteration on www.rockwellautomation.com, the Product Locator is a seemingly endless list of product possibilities. On the new site, the Product Locator is simplified to 15 key categories, including photos, helping users drill down to the product they are looking for.