Services and support from Rockwell...one stop shopping?

Rockwell certainly hopes so. In fact, Rockwell is betting a whole lot of money and some very good people on the idea. They've taken notice of the fact, well and often covered in CONTROL, that there aren't the number of experienced automation hands in process and discrete manufacturing facilities that there used to be. So they've evolved an entire strategy to be of assistance to their customers. And they've figured out that they need their distribution force to be able to deliver this strategy, so Rockwell loves its distributors again! Service Assessments Changing from an equipment- and product-based model to a customer-centric model involves providing essential services to the customer, sometimes before you get the order. Performance assessments, equipment installed base evaluations, plant baseline evaluations, and machine condition baseline evaluations can all help to set up the customer relationship with Rockwell to be close ("intimate" as John Bernaden puts it) and value-driven. Rockwell charges for these assessments, but they are not intended to be a profit center, and they usually credit them back against the cost of the contract if one ensues. Even if they gave this service away it would be a wonderful set of data to add to Rockwell's knowledge base, so this is a really clever idea. Condition Monitoring Everybody is aware that the way to stop unscheduled downtime is predictive maintenance, and the only way to do that is to monitor the condition of as many assets as possible, as real-time as you can. Rockwell has joined the bandwagon of companies offering condition monitoring systems, both online and handheld, and a set of services to help. Not being no fools, they've also been watching the emerging wireless standards like hawks...because, as I have said before, wireless is going to make condition monitoring work. Asset Management Services If you want, Rockwell will even manage your MRO process. They'll act as your parts factor, MRO purchasing, and manage your spare parts inventory for you. This will all cost you, of course, but it may actually be less costly to have Rockwell do it than to do it yourself. If it isn't less costly, it may be done better than you can do it, for much the same cost. Either way, Rockwell seems to have an interesting value proposition here. There is competition, of course, and it will remain to be seen how well RA succeeds in this highly competitive area. Remote Monitoring Services We've been predicting, and reporting on, the rise of remote services for several years. It makes too much sense for it not to be made available to the average customer. Network Services As Fluke figured out a decade ago, Rockwell has noticed that all their PLCs and PACs communicate over networks. It is a natural outgrowth of their service-centric and customer-centric new orientation that they would begin offering Network services in addition to the hardware that goes on the network, and the software that runs over it. It will be interesting to watch this: industrial network engineers and enterprise IT network engineers... Onsite Support Services Especially since many plants have laid off much of their automation expertise both in engineering and in maintenance, it makes sense to offer onsite support. Rockwell can do this by either siting a RA engineer/technician at the plant, or having its local distributor do likewise, or both. This is part of the strength of RA and its distributor force. It is nice to see that they are playing well together again. Training Services Rockwell knows what we all know: there aren't enough trained people, either working for vendors or working for end users, to provide all the heads, hands, and expertise we need to run current plants, let alone manage expectations of even mild growth. This training and expertise is going to have to be provided by the vendors, because there is no incentive for the plants themselves to do it. Rockwell has set up a pretty interesting training group, hoping to do just that. Repair Services Of course, there is repair. Now Rockwell swears that they won't use repair services as a way to jimmy the back door open and replace existing other label stuff with RA...but it sure makes it easier to get new equipment into a plant if you control the repair cycle. Phone Support Services Finally, Rockwell has seen all the horror movies about telephone support from India or the Phillippines, and they promise to provide very high quality telephone support 24/7. If they can make good on all these promises, Rockwell Automation is going to be a formidable competitor in both discrete and process automation. What do you think? Walt