Automation Fair

Rockwell Automation Ups Ante in Services Business

"Virtual Support Engineer" Program to Allow Rockwell Automation and Partners to Provide More Seamless Customer Support

By Walt Boyes

Automation Fair 2012


"Last year at Automation Fair we introduced a concept we call Assurance Integrated Support," began John Lohman, director of market development for services and solutions for Rockwell Automation. "We're back at this year's Automation Fair to tell you that it worked, and that we are working on ways to expand the program."

Assurance Integrated Support is made up of four basic bundled services, including an assessment phase, an asset management and risk mitigation phase, a preventive maintenance and support implementation phase, and a measurement phase.

"We are trying to help the guy inside the fence be more successful," added Jon Furniss, remote support global product manager for customer support and maintenance. "Lack of support, smaller budgets, fewer people – all those pressures are the same whether the company is one of the Fortune 100 or a lot smaller. The operations and maintenance people want support, they want it predictable, and they don't want high cost surprises."

"Assurance Integrated Support is simple, flexible and worry-free," said Rob Nugent, director of contract for customer support and maintenance, "And we do it for a flat rate. That's what enables us to give our customers budget predictability."

Data-Sharing to Enable Seamless Service

"Now, we have all this data we've collected working with our customers," Furniss said.  "Our distributors and our solution partners and integrators also have data from their service records when they service the same customers we do. What we'd like to do is to enable the use of all this data in a common way so that our partners and distributors and integrators can have access to the data they need to do their service at our customers."

"What we have done is to put together a program where our distributors, partners and integrators can access our data on their customers and put it to use," Furniss continued. "We call it Virtual Support Engineer. This lets our partners and integrators and distributors use our common support platform as readily as our own internal service engineers can.  They have access to our 24/7 support center, our database and all of our support information."

"We'd like to be the coordinator of these service projects," Nugent said, to make sure that the closest and most appropriate service organization or individual is dispatched to handle the customer's problems. "But the first step is to be sure we can marshal all our support. Then we may be able to add the third parties."

"There are some confidentiality and security issues we would need to work through," agreed Furniss, "before we can do anything like that. It is clearly the logical end point, though."

Premium Support for Customers of All Sizes

"We are working to build a sustainable support structure," Lohman added. "Our customers really need the support, from small companies to the largest. Our goal is to bring the premiere service experience to small and medium-sized companies, just as well as we do it for our large customers."

"This is why we start with the site audit," Lohman continued. "This lets us plan with the customer what levels of service they really need and can afford. We want to increase availability of our service capability."

"As far as making it cost-effective for smaller customers is concerned," Nugent said, "we are truly motivated to make it cost-effective because we want to extend the reach of our entire service capability to all our customers, whether they usually see a distributor or a solution partner, and only occasionally see a Rockwell Automation service person. We are really sitting on the customer's side of the table."