American public supports investment in automation

Rockwell is hoping that the results of research it has sponsored into the attitudes of the American public toward modernizing industrial processes will encourage the U.S. government to provide incentives for manufacturers to invest in automating their plants, hopefully, no doubt, with Allen-Bradley PLCs and Rockwell software. The company sponsored surveys by Opinion Research in May 2008 and January 2009, both of which are interpreted by Rockwell as showing that a substantial majority of Americans currently see safer, cleaner and more energy-efficient production as the most important manufacturing issues and believe that a federal government stimulus package should support an increase in the number of modern, automated factories.

Government Incentives

Perhaps surprisingly, there was little change in the proportion of respondents supporting the various propositions in the survey between May of last year and January of this, despite the dramatic change in economic outlook in the interim. More than three quarters of those surveyed said that the U.S. government should provide incentives for American companies to invest in technology and automation to remain competitive and keep manufacturing operations from moving overseas. More than 80% and, in some cases, over 90% of respondents supported such relatively uncontentious proposals as that U.S. manufacturers should invest in order to use energy and natural resources more efficiently, maintain competitiveness, minimize environmental impact and provide safer products and a safe workplace. However the responses became a little less clear-cut when interviewees were asked to consider some of the implications of greater levels of industrial automation. Thus while 74% wanted to see manufacturers automate and modernize their plants, 85% wanted to maintain the current number and types of jobs available and only 62% wanted them to provide higher-paid, high-skilled jobs.

Urgent Need

Intriguingly, less than half of Americans appear to believe that the U.S. has lost its competitive edge in manufacturing technology and automation, but only 18% think U.S. manufacturing technology is more advanced than that of other countries. “While most Americans think incorrectly that the U.S. is no longer the world’s largest manufacturer, they feel there is an urgent need for government stimulus,” said Rockwell chairman and CEO Keith Nosbusch. “Government incentives to modernize manufacturing will help create highly-skilled, higher-paying jobs upgrading and operating more automated US factories for many years to come. The technologies are cost-effective and ready to be deployed today for benefits that are both immediate and sustainable.”

Other Rockwell News

  • Rockwell appears to have taken a further step down the road of competing with its own integrators with the acquisition of the majority of the assets of Rutter Hinz, a Canadian company providing engineering services in industrial automation, process control and power distribution, primarily for the oil and gas industry, but also for the pipeline, utility, mining, forestry and food and beverage sectors. The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rutter Inc, is based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and has annual sales of some $35 million. Joining Rockwell’s Systems & Solutions business unit are Rutter Hinz’s engineering and automation businesses in Canada and the U.S., together with its management team and 220 strong workforce. “This acquisition accelerates the growth of Rockwell Automation’s business and reach in Canada’s heavy industries and oil and gas market, enhances our Canadian oil sands opportunities, and establishes a robust delivery capability in a major market with critical expertise,” said Rockwell Automation Systems & Solutions vice president and general manager Terry Gebert, who added that it “continues to strengthen our global project management and engineering solutions delivery capability ― as we have done with ProsCon and ICS Triplex acquisitions in Europe, CIE in Latin America and Xi’An Hengsheng in China.”
  • Rockwell has introduced an asset management tool aimed specifically at smaller manufacturers and machine builders with limited numbers of automation assets. Based on the FactoryTalk Integrated Production and Performance Suite and enabled by FactoryTalk Services, FactoryTalk AssetCentre Machine Edition provides a centralized tool for gathering, managing and securing data on up to 25 devices, including control systems, drives and HMIs, using a single workstation and without the need to purchase an additional Microsoft SQL Server database. The software offers version control and archiving of program files and documents, backup and recovery of operating asset configurations, tracking of users’ actions and management of asset configuration files on Rockwell Automation devices. It also allows machine builders to provide electronic versions of archived files, prints and drawings for delivery to end users and to maintain an electronic record of the original configuration of the devices for warranty purposes.
  • No reflection on the quality of fare provided at the Rockwell cafeteria in Milwaukee, but the company has agreed to an arrangement whereby a local composting company, Growing Power, is to collect its vegetable waste including peelings, bread and other non-meat scraps free of charge on a weekly basis and turn it into compost for its urban farm and urban gardening programme.

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