Photo by Keith Larson
“Front-end consultations about sustainability and energy management are very important.” Rockwell Automation’s Pete Morrell addressed the press, along with colleague Tom O’Reilly, about helping clients work toward their sustainability and net-zero goals at Automation Fair in Chicago.

Myriad solutions for net-zero goals

Nov. 15, 2022
How Rockwell is helping its customers meet their sustainability, net-zero goals

As it is in the larger industrial world, sustainability is a hot topic at Automation Fair in Chicago, with multiple presentations spotlighting sustainable approaches for manufacturers eager to work toward net-zero goals.

Rockwell Vice President of Sustainability Tom O’Reilly chronicled how, in July 2021, Rockwell’s Customer Sustainability Team was launched with his fronting the group. During a press briefing, the VP then mapped out his group’s three-part strategy.

Sustainable company—creating innovative sustainable products and solutions while fostering a culture that empowers employees to operate safely, sustainably and responsibly. This commitment is considered a competitive advantage and a way for Rockwell to differentiate itself from its peers. O’Reilly stressed that he closely monitors sustainability-rating agencies that chart his team’s progress. He was clearly proud when detailing recent recognition from business-rating network EcoVadis.

Sustainable communities—supporting the communities in which stakeholders live and work, leaving a legacy that extends beyond the Rockwell organization. The mission is to provide to community partners access to resources that enhance their productivity and sustainability—initiatives like STEM and workforce-development programs, explained O’Reilly, who detailed Rockwell’s internal sustainability commitment to be carbon-neutral for Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (indirect) emissions by 2030.

Sustainable customers—enabling Rockwell customers to achieve their own sustainability goals while making a positive impact on the world. “Everything we do for our customers is about increasing efficiency, reducing energy usage, improving worker safety and ensuring regulatory compliance,” noted O’Reilly.

Sustainable customers hold the greatest promise for real progress, he explained. While Rockwell’s internal goals are aggressive and encouraging, empowering tens of thousands of Rockwell customers to work more sustainably at their own facilities has exponentially positive results, akin to teaching humankind to fish.

“We are looking internally and at the whole ecosystem of industry,” said O’Reilly’s colleague and co-presenter Pete Morell, Rockwell Automation global OEM industry director. “Achieving sustainability in this timeframe requires a partner ecosystem that can help develop new technologies needed to scale these programs. We can help with that.”

The pair then highlighted a number of case studies that exemplify that type of help. One is with hydrogen fuel-cell company Plug Power, which relies on Rockwell’s PlantPAx software to align its partnerships and manage its assets during fuel-production processes.

Another example is the carbon-capture initiative at ArcelorMittal, which is turning carbon emissions into ethanol. Rockwell is helping them coordinate disparate OEM programs connected with this project to align with their wider sustainability strategy.

The presenters touched on emerging technology for the physical and chemical processes involved with recycling plastics and technology, or “e-waste.” They stressed the importance of supporting customers after they’ve announced their net-zero goals but before feasible strategies are put into place, oftentimes a period of great confusion. “These front-end consultations about sustainability and energy management are very important,” said Morell.

They noted how large, multi-national corporations are spearheading sustainability programs, more commonly in Europe than stateside. They hinted at a new Rockwell energy-as-a-service offering in development. And they explained how the best sustainability programs are developed with the intent to be applied to installed bases—brownfield assets. “This isn’t just for new stuff,” O’Reilly explained. “These enhancements must be able to be used on all of our automation assets.”

The exhibit floor at Automation Fair, which showcases all sorts of automation assets, demonstrates countless other sustainability use cases, enabling event attendees to connect with Rockwell subject-matter experts along with customers to discuss how they can emulate these successful programs.

“We’re getting much more serious about getting the message out about sustainability now and in the future,” summarized O’Reilly, who then addressed a common misconception about this hot topic. “Sustainability and productivity can be aligned. They have to be connected.” 

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