Today’s industrial processes and manufacturing workflows are more complex, dynamic and interconnected than ever before. Optimizing the performance of these value chains requires both broad understanding of application context and automation technology as well as a lifecycle perspective that starts with design and carries through to sustaining that value over the long haul.
A global, focused leader in the automation of process, discrete and hybrid industrial processes, Rockwell Automation brings to bear a unique set of lifecycle services (figure) designed to optimize value delivered over the entire industrial asset lifecycle—from the earliest stages of design through the long-term sustainment of production capabilities.
Control recently caught up with Rockwell Automation’s Rachael Conrad, vice president and general manager of Customer Support and Maintenance, to learn more about how the company helps its customers to fully unlock the potential of their investments over time.
Q: For many industrial automation suppliers the term “lifecycle services” refers to the help they offer their customers in managing the lifecycle of their automation assets. While that’s certainly important, Rockwell Automation takes a much broader view—can you expand on the scope of your offering?
A: At Rockwell Automation, we focus on how we can best help our customers with their challenges and deliver the business outcomes that they need. We think about lifecycle as the lifecycle of their plant or the lifecycle of their process—not just the lifecycle of those automation assets. We also recognize that in any plant or process, it's not going to be just Rockwell Automation systems—we have to be able to support our customers with all different types of technology and a broad range of vintages. That broad view is part of how we deliver the most value for our customers.
We have capabilities to help improve asset performance at the design-build stage. Or to modernize those assets and then sustain the output they seek. That includes not only Rockwell Automation products and systems, but also extends to other machines, other brands, and most importantly to the people who are helping to extract value from their investments—their specific knowledge of the customer’s industry, applications and operations.
Q: Designing the controls and instrumentation for a new process plant or machine is often an afterthought relative to the physical design. What do companies risk by not engaging Rockwell Automation early in the pre-operational design and build phases of a production asset’s lifecycle?
A: Decisions made during the early stages of a project have an impact throughout the project lifecycle. When we engage at the onset of a new project or program, it leads to better systems integration and a more optimized user experience in the long term. Working with Rockwell Automation means you get more than just a plan on paper or delivery of a piece of equipment. You get ideas and technology applied and implemented within your business to address current and future business needs and goals. We envision the future together, and then together we make it happen.
Q: Greenfield plants and next-generation machine designs are an exciting pursuit, but after that first start-up every plant is brownfield and every machine is a legacy asset. How does Rockwell Automation help users to sustain and improve the performance of their assets?
A: Most companies require some level of outside support, especially as they encounter skills shortages, obsolescence risks and operational complexity. Our broad Lifecycle Services give them one point of access to highly trained engineers—and replacement parts when needed. Additionally, as part of our capability, we can offer connected services that help securely connect and manage their OT and IT networks.
Data is a sub-product of automation. We can help bring together the data, systems and processes to provide them with the right information at the right time: information that can help predict what’s coming, anticipate an issue before it happens, and make businesses more connected, productive and intelligent. Rockwell Automation provides all the services our customers need to be productive now and into the future.
Q: Rockwell Automation has an enviable partner ecosystem—many of which provide front-line design, integration and implementation services on behalf of end users and machine builders. How does Rockwell Automation collaborate with those companies to meet its mutual customers’ needs?
A: Our lifecycle services are designed to coordinate across our partners to ensure faster startup of new machines or commissioning of applications across a large installed base. We also have the capabilities to bring that data into our managed services, and partner with those companies in the ecosystem to ensure that we are applying the right skills and talent to support each aspect of the machinery operation within that facility or application.
We have many customers today with hundreds of plants that rely on services from us. With one call to our support center, we're able to have a single service ticket that goes across multiple partners—be it a Rockwell Automation network switch built with Cisco technology, a Panduit Integrated Network Zone System, a VMware host, or a Rockwell Automation PLC. Our goal is to simplify that customer experience and federate it across multiple different partners so that the customer is not burdened with asking “Who do I go to for what?”
This is sort of support is also important for OEMs. Take a packaging equipment manufacturer that is based in North America but whose equipment is being shipped all around the world. They may not have support resources in other countries or the ability to send those resources quickly to support end customers. It’s an example of another way we work together with our ecosystem to support the OEM themselves, or the end user because they're in a country that the OEM might not have the capability to travel to. We have thousands of local resources globally.
We place very high value on our partners and our success depends on them being successful as well. Our customers need an ecosystem of people working on their behalf to support them. The heart of true collaboration is acknowledging when you aren't the proper fit to do everything for a customer, but you also know what you're good at, what is complementary. This ecosystem that we’ve built with our partners allows us to bring the right people to the table at the right time. It can and should feel seamless to our customers—that we are all working toward a common goal.
Interested in a deeper exploration of the Rockwell Automation lifecycle services offering? Look for Rachael in the Lifecycle Services booth at the upcoming 2019 Automation Fair, to be held November 20-21 in Chicago. And if you happen to be focused in the process industries, including batch industries such as life sciences or food and beverage, check out the lifecycle track during the Process Solutions User Group conference, to be held on Monday and Tuesday of Automation Fair week.
Editor's Note: This post was sponsored by Rockwell Automation. To learn more about how Rockwell Automation can help manage your asset management lifecycles, visit RockwellAutomation.com.