By Jim Montague, Executive Editor
Much like a pair of teenagers shooting up in height before the eyes of their amazed parents, Rockwell Automation's Process Solutions User Group (PSUG) and the company's own process solutions business have both undergone accelerated growth spurts in the past few years.
For instance, the annual PSUG gathering, being held in Chicago this week in the run-up to the company's Automation Fair event, has swelled from 50 members in 2001 to more than 800 now, largely thanks to the efforts of its hands-on customer advisory board (CAB), according to Steve Pulsifer, director of process market development at Rockwell Automation. In fact, more than 500 customers per year vote on the development direction and features of Rockwell Automation's PlantPAx process control system, Puslifer said.
Likewise, the revenue of Rockwell Automation's Information Software and Process Business (ISPB) grew fives times as fast as the rest of the distributed control system (DCS) market during its Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 fiscal year (FY 2011), and achieved the best overall growth rate among all of the major DCS competitors, according to John Genovesi, ISPB's vice president and general manager, who cited the recent "DCS Worldwide Outlook" study by ARC Advisory Group (www.arcweb.com).
Overall, Rockwell Automation's sales grew 24% in FY 2011, passing $6 billion, and finally eclipsing the $5.7 billion it earned before the recent economic slowdown began in 2008. Despite the difficulties of this period, Rockwell Automation's investment in process automation has exceeded $500 million during the past five years, during which it has formed substantive partnerships with Cisco, Endress+Hauser, IBM and OSIsoft, as well as acquiring ICSTriplex, Pavilion Technologies, Hiprom and Incuity, among others.
"Rockwell Automation has a long history of process automation solutions, but I'm especially proud of the fact that we added 25 new products, system features and capabilities in FY 2011," said Genovesi. "These included a new HMI look and feel, diagnostic and library objects, advances in high availability, operations and design productivity, device integration and asset management for power devices, and expanded process OEM capabilities. We also added 33 new system integrator (SI) partners, including many in Asia Pacific and Latin America. This brings us to 134 process solution providers and SI partners worldwide."
ISPB's new products have included its FactoryTalk Pharma Suite 3.0 software, FactoryTalk CPG Suite 2.0 software, FactoryTalk Vantage Point 4.0 and FactoryTalk Historian ME.
To put ISPB's performance in context, Genovesi also reported on some of the findings in McKinsey Co.'s recent study on global economic forces, The Great Rebalancing, including the projection that more people will exit poverty in the next decade than have done so in all of human history.
"More than 70 million people per year are crossing the threshold into the middle class, and virtually all of them are in emerging economies. As a result, the global middle class is going to double, adding $8 trillion in consumer spending," reported Genovesi. "So, roughly 40% of the world's population will achieve middle-class status by global standards in the next 10 years, up from less than 20% today. In fact, the coming decade will be the first in 200 years when emerging-market countries contribute more growth than the developed ones, and traditional Western economies will likely have a smaller share of global GDP in 2050 than they had in 1700."
Because global growth will increasingly come from emerging economies, Genovesi explained that about half of worldwide industrial production is also going to happen in these emerging areas. This means most manufacturers will have to shift their production mix, which will have a profound affect on process control and automation users and suppliers.
He added that Rockwell Automation is addressing four primary challenges:
- Facilitating globalization with extensive global support that meets local standard requirements;
- Improving productivity with continuous improvements to better provide asset utilization and system performance;
- Supporting sustainability initiatives with extended product lifecycles, safer environments and reduced energy use; and
- Cultivating innovation with increased visibility and knowledge capture.
"Likewise, the challenges our PSUG customers face each day include reducing operating costs and commissioning times while achieving continuous improvements and increasing quality and yields at the same time," said Genovesi. "They must also conform to a wide range of global regulatory and safety requirements. The global economic environment is uncertain, so it requires improved business responsiveness."
To give its many customers the tools they need to survive and thrive, Rockwell Automation and its PlantPAx process control system deliver a single control architecture that enables plant-wide optimization from raw materials and primary processing and onward to packaging and warehousing. For users in the consumer-driven industries, Genovesi reported that PlantPAx provides:
- Plant-wide control that drives total cost of ownership savings;
- Batch management that allows scalable and integrated batching from the controller layer to the enterprise;
- Manufacturing intelligence that enables continuous process improvements;
- OEM scalability that allows cost-effective skid design, development and deployment.
For users in the resource-driven industries, Genovesi added that PlantPAx delivers a premier integration of power-control components via EtherNet/IP networking, including variable-frequency drives and motor-control centers that help reduce energy use and system lifecycle costs. PlantPAx's primary benefits for resource-based applications include:
- Operational excellence, high availability and safety by providing critical asset health and performance information for optimization;
- Sustainability by delivering cleaner, safer and more energy-efficient operations to help users achieve business goals;
- Security by helping to protect people, assets and information from accidental or malicious threats.