By Walt Boyes, Editor in Chief
"Rockwell Automation has been in the services business a long time," said John Lohmann, Rockwell Automation's director of market development for services and solutions, as he explained the breadth of the company's current services offering. "Our customers struggle to prioritize their asset lifecycle needs, and we are working to help them with maintenance and lifecycle services that are more financially predictable. This is what they've told us they want, and we are determined to support them."
"We have been listening to our customers, and we understand their pain points," Rob Nugent, director of services contracts added. "The competition is producing service offerings in a sort of ad hoc way, but we believe that the asset owners need to be protected from budget unpredictability. So we've created four service packages with a simple contract that we call Assurance Integrated Support."
"It is simple, flexible, worry-free, and we provide it for one flat fee," Nugent said. "We don't charge extra for parts, for phone support, for on-site visits or the on-site health checks and asset audits we perform as part of the contract. This will be something unique in the automation space." Currently, the company is rolling the service out in Canada, with a global roll-out to follow in 2012.
"We took the customer approach and worked backwards—from what they wanted to what we can provide," said Jane Barr, plant services business manager for customer support and maintenance. "We developed a disciplined, four-step approach, and we encourage our customers to take this approach with us as their trusted partner and advisor.
"First there is an assessment phase in which we do audits of the state of our customers' assets," Barr explained. "Next we and our customer together design a strategy that mitigates their asset management risks. Then we together implement a predictive maintenance and support system that supports the strategy. Finally, we measure, optimize and repeat as we get better."
Barr noted that Rockwell Automation's global capabilities in services and asset management have been greatly augmented by the recent acquisition of Lektronix, one of the largest third-party repair houses in the world. "We provide competent in-language support anywhere our customers are," Barr said.
"What we're looking for is a partnership, a co-ownership of our client's asset management needs," Lohmann said. "Above all, we want this disciplined approach to be attainable. If a customer can only do the assessment portion, that's what we will encourage them to do. We want to help them grow into predictive asset management."
"In the old days, we provided telephone and on-site support," said Jon Furniss, Rockwell Automation product manager for global remote support. "Now we have multiple channels including email, social media, web-based forums and help sites. We even do online service support chat. We're trying to respond to our customers' service needs in all the ways they want us to. This is one of the reasons for the application-based contracts we're introducing."
Training services have changed dramatically too, according to Nick Goebel, Rockwell Automation global training services business manager. "We used to be event-driven. We'd put our annual training course schedule up on the web and in the literature, and we'd wait for customers to register for the courses. Now, through our Global Workforce Solutions we are optimizing training for our customers. Now we are process-driven."