Flexibility Driving the Future of Automation

Flexible Production, Cloud Computing Pave the Way to Future for Rockwell Automation and Users

By Jim Montague

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Automation Fair 2012

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To help their users and customers survive in the present and thrive in the future, a trio of Rockwell Automation's technical experts and partners delivered a series of presentations this week at the Manufacturing Perspectives press event leading up to Automation Fair 2012 in Philadelphia.

One of the cornerstones enabling the flexibility of manufacturing so crucial to the operations of many of Rockwell Automation's manufacturing customers is the company's long and fruitful partnership with Cisco Systems. Maciej Kranz, vice president and general manager of the Connected Industries Group at Cisco, and Sujeet Chand, senior vice president and CTO at Rockwell Automation, jointly reported how they're striving to make flexible production and cloud-computing services more mobile and secure.

"Research shows about 63% of companies are allowing staffers to bring smart phones and other mobile devices onto their plant floors to allow access to information and aid in collaboration, but at the same time about $60 billion is being spent on cybersecurity," said Kranz. "So as connected apps drive enterprise convergence, there's more need for security too."

Chand explained, "The sheer volume of production data is so great that many users are drowning in it, and this isn't helped by all the proprietary formats they have to deal with. What they need is to bring actionable information out of all that data. Fortunately, enhanced connectivity is continuing to evolve, and the key enabler is open, standard Ethernet. In fact, together we've been using our joint Reference Architecture to develop and produce the switches and access points to bring more Ethernet to the plant floor, and then securely connect it to the enterprise level, back-end business networks and supply chains." 

Chand added that Rockwell Automation and Cisco's efforts on improving Ethernet networking have inevitably brought it to cloud computing. "The cloud is allowing users to move legacy information and data processing from hardware to virtual systems, which allows greater mobility, improves analytics and optimization, and enables the factory of the future. However, these must be assisted by perimeter security, VPNs and firewalls, threat identification and cloud-based security infrastructures, which can give users the converged, secure networks they need for successful and safe collaboration."

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