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Smart Manufacturing Will Rise to Global Challenges

Rockwell Automation Has a Plan to Elevate Manufacturing's Performance

By Jim Montague

Automation Fair 2012


"The coming decade will be the first in 200 years when emerging-market countries contribute more growth than the developed ones," began Keith Nosbusch, Rockwell Automation's chairman and CEO, in his annual address to the trade media in preparation for the company's Automation Fair event later this week in Philadelphia.

"The emergence of these massive, new middle-class consumer markets is creating significant new demands on resources and, especially, increasing demand for commodities. The U.S. industrial base is showing signs of revitalization, but these macro trends are being tempered by short-term economic uncertainty. Likewise, national debts and unemployment are still high, and much infrastructure is in a poor state of repair. However, even though these factors are creating challenging environments for us and our customers, we remain optimistic."

Nosbusch stressed that consumers in emerging markets are eating better, driving more cars, and buying more health and beauty products, which is shortening lifecycles and stretching supply chains. This is fueling demand for new manufacturing capabilities, even as a generation of control and automation engineers begins to retire before their successors can get trained. "This is why we need smart manufacturing, which we define as a highly connected, knowledge-enabled industrial enterprise, in which all business and operating actions are optimized to achieve substantially enhanced productivity, sustainability and economic performance."

Technology, Talent and Infrastructure

Nosbusch explained that smart manufacturing's three primary enablers are technology, talent and infrastructure. "This all starts with infrastructure—from having a good education system to having good transportation for your supply chain," said Nosbusch.

"Next, you need safe and secure Ethernet, real-time manufacturing intelligence and increased use of cloud computing, simulation and modeling, energy management for sustainability, and lifecycle-focused productivity. Naturally, the benefits of smart manufacturing for our customers are faster time to market, lower total costs of ownership, improved asset utilization and optimization and better enterprise risk management."

Helping Customers Manufacture Smarter

To help its many and varied customers manufacture smarter, Rockwell Automation is enhancing its core Integrated Architecture and Intelligent Motor Control Platforms with more secure Ethernet solutions, improved scale and performance, better ease-of-use, and integrated energy, motion, safety, batch and process information applications. It's also enhancing its solutions and global services by offering more packaged solutions, remote monitoring services and regional engineering centers. "All of these can help drive higher levels of operational performance and optimization," added Nosbusch.

Rockwell Automation's three main smart manufacturing themes include plant-wide optimization, sustainable production and improved machine-builder performance.  "All of these are based on our Integrated Architecture and are the building blocks of smart manufacturing," said Nosbusch.

"Of course, we couldn't do what we do without the help of others, and that's why we're so grateful to have the best partners in the industry, especially Cisco and Microsoft. Together, we're able to do what none of us could do alone. We believe that smart manufacturing is worth investing in because it will enable faster time to market, drive continuing success for us and our customers, and give us all better returns on our investments."