I’m just back from my first business trip since February 2020, and boy was it great to renew relationships with colleagues and associates in a non-virtual context. The early November trip brought me to Houston, where I participated in Automation Fair 2021, Rockwell Automation’s annual trade fair and conference, which this year was conducted as a hybrid event with both live and virtual components.
As a member of the press, I was privileged to participate in a series of media briefings that really gave me an inside look at how Rockwell itself is taking steps to deal with issues of central importance for all manufacturing organizations today: workforce—from both skills and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) perspectives—and sustainability, from the perspectives of efficiency, recycling and reuse, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
Interestingly enough, three of the speakers had recently taken on new responsibilities in newly created positions within the organization, which I think is strongly correlated with how important company management, starting with Chairman and CEO Blake Moret, believes these initiatives are to the future of the company.
First up was Bobby Griffin, the company's first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. Together with Becky House, senior vice president and chief people and legal officer (another telling title), he discussed leveraging culture and DEI as competitive advantage. The company believes in this so strongly that it’s elevated its commitment to developing a stronger culture of DEI as the organization’s #1 strategic goal, by which the success of its managers is measured and compensated.
"We’re integrating DEI at the micro-level of each business," Griffin said, "so we can align globally, be relevant locally, help our leaders be more culturally competent, and take a broader approach to bringing in talent.”
The company tagline of “expanding human possibility” isn’t just for Rockwell's customers and prospects. It’s also about getting its employees excited about what the company is all about and performing at their highest level.
Another presenter sporting a newly created title was Sherman Joshua, global competency business director. In his new role, he’s working within Rockwell’s services group to create a more agile and flexible workforce. Speaking with Rachel Conrad, vice president in charge of the services organization, he’s working to attract new employees to the organization, proactively plan for their success and ensure they get the training and retraining that they need to keep their skills relevant.
Building a robust workforce starts with a plan, Joshua said. “It starts with your business strategy. Ask some questions. What do your customers need? What can we bring to the market? What are the skills and competencies needed?”
Last up was Tom O’Reilly, newly minted vice president of sustainability. He talked about how Rockwell was leveraging data to drive productivity and sustainability—both within Rockwell and on behalf of its customers. The ability of the Rockwell portfolio of hardware, software and services to increase efficiency and reduce waste on behalf of its customers is clear, but Rockwell itself has also improved energy efficiency and reduced waste of its manufacturing processes and is targeted the increased recycling and reuse of its products.
Prompted by a question from the audience about common barriers to sustainable manufacturing processes, O’Reilly responded that many executives simply don’t know where to start. “That’s part of the reason Rockwell has partnered with Kalypso, which has a unique methodology about where to start to drive sustainability and find real value.”
Clearly, Rockwell Automation sees sustainability through a wide lens—including its own continued relevance and viability through an engaged workforce. My hat’s off to them and I wish them continued success.