Partnering: It's in the DNA

Nov. 4, 2010
Often Imitated, Never Equaled; Rockwell Automation's Partnership Programs Are in Its Genes

Although the Rockwell Automation exhibits are central to the show floor at Automation Fair, even more floor space is dedicated to the stands of the company's PartnerNetwork. Rockwell Automation literally owns that phrase (since it is their trademark) but the fact that they trademarked it indicates their level of commitment to partnering as a business extension and force multiplier tool.

"Partnering is in our DNA," said Joe Kann, vice president of business development at Rockwell Automation. "When we are looking for a solution we don't offer, we look for partners first."

The most obvious parts of the PartnerNetwork are the 101 members of the Encompass Partners. Encompass, Rockwell Automation's third-party product referencing program, provides customers a single point of access to the dynamic, powerful alliance between Rockwell Automation and its PartnerNetwork. Through Encompass, Rockwell Automation identifies, qualifies and jointly markets third-party manufactured products that complement Rockwell Automation's breadth of products.

Right there, in the concept of co-marketing partner products, is a major difference between the Rockwell Automation idea of an alliance partner and those of other automation suppliers. John Kuenszler of ARC Advisory Group said, "There are lots of handshake partnerships and alliances made every day, and then the parties go away and nothing happens. That's not what happens with Rockwell Automation's partners."

That the wares of more than 100 Encompass Partner companies are on display at Automation Fair this week in Orlando is proof-positive of Rockwell Automation's partnering prowess.

Rockwell Automation's Encompass Partners comprise manufacturers of everything from cable ties to advanced design software. Along the way are manufacturers of pushbuttons, motors, network appliances, radio interfaces, field instruments and final control elements. Rockwell Automation intends the Encompass Program to be a one-stop comprehensive product catalog to enable end users and solution providers to leverage and extend their technical competence.

In addition, the PartnerNetwork includes Rockwell Automation's highest-quality solution providers (system integrators) and machine builders. Rockwell Automation's customers often use system integrators to design and implement their automation solutions, and Rockwell Automation has trained and vetted these solution providers and machine builders for competence, business acumen and quality of integration implementations. Many of the solution providers are also registered members of CSIA, the Control System Integrators Association.

A central part of the PartnerNetwork is the independent distributor network that Rockwell Automation depends on to provide local sales and technical support, as well as provide stocking inventory of needed spares where their customers can use them. The synergy between the distributors, the solution partners, the machine builders, Rockwell Automation itself, and the customers have made a very strong distribution organization nearly unbeatable.

Rockwell Automation itself is smaller than its footprint—smaller than its technological reach. One of the key reasons for this is in the creativity with which Rockwell Automation approaches strategic alliances. Two alliances stand out in both strategic and tactical importance. Rockwell Automation's marketing leverage "has made it seem as though they are exclusive partnerships," said ARC's Craig Resnick, "even though they are not."

The first is the alliance with Cisco Systems. Cisco, the world's largest manufacturer of network appliances among other products, has worked diligently with Rockwell Automation to develop an integrated framework for industrial Ethernet. Both companies, in a way quite untypical of most alliances, have spent significant money and resources putting the companies' Standard Reference Architecture together.

The second alliance is with Endress+Hauser. Endress+Hauser is the world's largest manufacturer of field instrumentation, which is a product and technology extension Rockwell Automation found they sorely needed when they began their process automation initiative. E+H products and Rockwell Automation controllers have been "system tested" and found to be compatible. Both companies have incorporated knowledge gained from this testing into new iterations of their products.

As an example of the synergy in an enterprise-wide strategic alliance, Cisco's expertise with Ethernet and its involvement with Rockwell Automation in creating the companies' Standard Reference Architecture for Ethernet deployments in automation, made Endress+Hauser develop Ethernet-enabled field devices so that the "one industrial network" concept that Rockwell Automation and Cisco have been developing has had its natural extension all the way to the device level.

Rockwell Automation's PartnerNetwork and their attention to growing and developing their relationships with their partners has become a significant force multiplier. If you add together all the products, technologies, and related revenues of Rockwell Automation and its partners, the resultant entity is two or three times larger than Rockwell Automation alone. Plus, partnering is less expensive than acquisition—and you don't have to worry about culture clash.