Customers at the center of ROKLive universe

June 14, 2022

“Data is at the center of all we do. With our Operations Management vision, strategy and products, we and our customers can bring together data from anywhere, put it in context, and let users employ it everywhere.” Rockwell Automation’s Brian Shephard welcomed some 2,000 users of the company’s automation solutions, including those of its recent Plex Systems and Fiix acquisitions, to ROKLive 2022 this week in Orlando, Fla.

It’s always good to have friends, but in times of uncertainty and upheaval, it’s crucial to have someone who has your back. Fortunately, Rockwell Automation and its partners spend most of their waking hours developing, investing in and perfecting ways to help their customers survive and thrive no matter what challenges they face.

This steadfast, longstanding commitment—backed up by comprehensive capabilities—is on full display this week at ROKLive 2022 in Orlando. Fla. The software-centric event highlighted Rockwell Automation’s latest Plex cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution system (MES) portfolio, as well as its Fiix cloud-based computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) solutions.

“We’re continuing to bring the Connected Enterprise to life, and helping users respond to all the continuing volatility, snarled supply chains and other issues we’ve all been dealing with lately,” said Blake Moret, chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation, in a video message that kicked off ROKLive’s opening keynote session. “We’re using analytics to help customers optimize production and products, eliminating single points of failure in operations, and providing deeper insights that allow them to pivot faster to better outcomes. No one is in a better position than Rockwell Automation to help users achieve and maintain these gains.”

Moret reported that Rockwell Automation accomplishes this mission in three primary areas:

  • Innovations in its core technologies, including its traditional devices and software, which are consistent, maintain high usability and are simplified for system integrators, operators and maintenance. They’re also cyber-secure to enable safe communications between field devices, edge computing and cloud services.
  • Advancing its software and information solutions with high-value services, such as those from Plex Systems and Fiix, to give customers more and better insights for minimizing inefficiencies and enabling their businesses. To further boost these services, Rockwell Automation also recently opened a security operations center (SOC) to make them cyber-secure, and acquired Maverick Technologies and Kalypso to consult with customers on their digitalization journeys. 
  • Refocusing on customers’ individual manufacturing challenges with Rockwell Automation’s industry-leading software and services, and combining people and technologies to also make their operations, organizations and the larger world more sustainable.

Pathway to data power

To achieve these epic goals for customer success, Rockwell Automation and its customers begin by synthesizing the raw data that forms the basis for all their analytics and other optimization efforts, continued Brian Shepherd, senior vice president of software and control, Rockwell Automation, as he took the keynote stage.   

“We believe in the power of data, technology and expertise to transform manufacturing. We make all the devices users employ in their factories, but they aren’t just individual components. They’re part of systems that are powered by software and services that make them easier, safer and more productive to use,” Shepherd said. “We’re a pure play in manufacturing that’s 100% focused on operations. We help our customers to achieve business outcomes in five main areas: optimizing production, empowering workforces, managing risk, driving sustainability and accelerating transformation.”

For instance, Shepherd reported that:

  • Copper producer Codelco has increased ore processing and production by 80,000 tons per day by investing $4 billion to transform a 100-year-old mine with formerly disconnected equipment into a fully connected and integrated operation with smart devices and software from Rockwell Automation that make it more agile and productive.
  • Life sciences provider Cytiva built its modular and integrated Flex Factory system on Rockwell Automation’s solutions, so its users can quickly ramp up therapeutics production, develop and produce new medicines, and optimize production for both. In fact, Cytiva recently achieved a 10% increase in throughput and employee efficiency thanks to integrating Rockwell Automation’s digital technologies and scalable automation.
  • New Zealand-based Fonterra is continuing to integrate tools from Rockwell Automation, PTC and Microsoft into its dairy operations, including a recent focus on enterprise data, coordinated operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT), allowing it to reach new performance levels by getting the right data to the rights users at the right time.   

Map for design and smart devices

For users seeking similar gains, Rockwell Automation has developed a multi-part vision and strategy for operations and enterprises, which embraces and coordinates its numerous solutions and services. These parts include:

  • Analytics, Apps and Access;
  • Machine, Cell, Line, Plant Design;
  • Intelligent Devices;
  • Control, Communications and Compute;
  • Operations Management;
  • Production Data Platform; and,
  • People and Services.    

“We mapped the whole enterprise production system, and invested in all of its sections, so we can deliver results for our customers,” said Shepherd, who introduced a panel of Rockwell Automation experts on each major area of the strategy. “For example, the Machine, Cell, Line, Plant Design area covers where to put things correctly in equipment and application designs before committing to building them. This can be done by using Emulate3D software to build digital twins quickly and easily, and Logix Echo software to verify solutions, and adding multi-physics simulations to digital twins to emulate real processes exactly. Our FactoryTalk Hub offerings also use digital twins for designs that are closely tied to the physical world of the factory and its real-time operations.”

Bob Buttermore, VP of the power control business at Rockwell Automation, reported that the Intelligent Devices area of the map covers optimization and maintenance, and forms the foundation for most other digitalization, productivity and sustainability projects, regardless of whether they’re seeking to improve outcomes in discrete, process or hybrid applications. Similar to the dashboard on a smart automobile, Intelligent Devices include predictive AI functions that Rockwell Automation has added to its PowerFlex drives to maximize their uptime and productivity, as well as links to Fiix for better device maintenance.

“Data visualization, preventive maintenance, optimization, autonomy and digital threads are all made possible by Intelligent Devices, and smart sensing, industrial control, safety, power control and motor control they can provide,” said Buttermore. “Rockwell Automation achieves them by embedding intelligent data models with AI into our devices, and this lets data flow seamlessly and continuously from devices to the edge to the cloud.”

Control, operations and people areas

Meanwhile, the Control, Communicate and Compute area adds value by providing a conduit for visualization, according to Dan DeYoung, director of production automation control and networks at Rockwell Automation. “We’ve invested heavily in reducing friction and minimizing risk in solutions, such as our Flex High-Availability (HA) 5000 open, connected and scalable control module, which works with our PlantPAx DCS, and is our first with analog and digital inputs and outputs in one unit,” explained DeYoung. “It’s also going to be integrated with acquisition Asem’s modern computing module for ControlLogix.”

In addition, Nathan Pieri, VP of product strategy and management, Plex Systems, detailed the Operations Management section of the map, and showed how it integrates machines, shop floors and top floors, and employs the latest high-fidelity inputs to connect them for more productive, agile and sustainable applications.

“These are industry-focused, on-premises operations that are built on a platform, and allow our customers to produce vaccines in compliance with regulations by using products, such as our PharmaSuite software, InnovationSuite powered by PTC, and FactoryTalk ProductionCentre for optimizing operations,” said Pieri. “Rockwell Automation also leads in cloud-based solutions, which include our FactoryTalk Operation Hub with Plex for simplified, cloud-native applications, and FactoryTalk Maintenance Hub with Fiix, which can deploy access to global applications, maintain digital threads, keep processes tightly integrated, and apply AI and machine learning (ML) to drive agility and resilience.”

Finally, the map’s People and Services section includes consulting, professional, connected, field and workforce services, which can all contribute to accelerating the digitalization capabilities of its customers, according to Rachael Conrad, VP of services at Rockwell Automation. “For example, analytics and applied AI can also be used to improve training programs, just as data science can provide learnings to operations,” explained Conrad. “However, as this data moves through and across OT and IT, it also comes with cybersecurity risks that must be addressed. The time is now for IT and OT experts to double down on cybersecurity, which is why we invested in building the best SOC in the market, and implemented ODVA’s CIP Security standard to help our customers mitigate the impact of potential intrusions and attacks.”

Shepherd added that all these sections of the Operations Management maps are centered around the production data platform. “Data is at the center of all we do,” he said. “It’s the lifeblood of manufacturing, but it’s often been siloed and trapped. Now, with our Operations Management vision, strategy and products, we and our customers can bring together data from anywhere, put it in context, and let users employ it everywhere. No one is better prepared that Rockwell Automation to make use of data and unlock its value for our customers.”

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About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control.