from the department of "uniqueness is as uniqueness does..."

March 19, 2007
A few days ago I posted about the recent ARC white paper on Rockwell and I want to give the author, Larry O'Brien, who also works with me on the Control/ARC Automation Top 50 project, a chance for equal time. Larry makes a good point, and we should seriously consider it. "I feel compelled to respond to some of the comments going around about this Rockwell Automation white paper that we wrote, and hopefully clarify a few points. D...
A few days ago I posted about the recent ARC white paper on Rockwell and I want to give the author, Larry O'Brien, who also works with me on the Control/ARC Automation Top 50 project, a chance for equal time. Larry makes a good point, and we should seriously consider it. "I feel compelled to respond to some of the comments going around about this Rockwell Automation white paper that we wrote, and hopefully clarify a few points. Doing these kinds of papers is always a challenge. Our goal with the white paper was to clearly articulate Rockwell Automation's strategy for the process industries and show readers what they have to offer and how this will evolve over the next several years. In the past several years I had seen Rockwell evolve from almost no presence in the DCS market to a global share of about 2 percent in 2005. This may not sound like much, but it is a considerable leap in a relatively short period, so it is clear to us that they are taking the process business seriously and deserve consideration. Part of their success in my opinion has been their ability to unify the domains of process and discrete automation to address applications in the hybrid industries, such as pharmaceuticals, food & beverage, and biofuels. "Which brings us to the key point - why did we call Rockwell Automation unique when it comes to integrating the worlds of process and discrete automation under a common environment? Many suppliers, not just Rockwell Automation, have the ability to bring these applications together under a common environment. What is unique about Rockwell Automation is not their ability to do plantwide control, but how they do it. Logix is built on what ARC calls a PAC concept. PAC stands for Programmable Automation Controller. The defining characteristics of the PAC are that it combines several functions, such as logic, motion, variable speed control, and process control in one system. A PAC offers a multi-disciplinary development platform with common tagging and a single database; uses software tools that allow designs to be implemented by process flow across several machines or processes; provides an open, modular architecture that mirrors industrial applications such as factory machine layouts; and employs de facto standards for network interfaces and languages. "The goal of PAC is to create products that can be easily installed without the need for a lot of custom engineering. A PAC is flexible and configurable, so users can customize and optimize it to meet their particular requirements for controlling and automating both machines and plants. All parts of the PAC system are designed to maximize software and hardware integration. This capability includes transparent access for all parameters and functions within the entire system, combining PLC, remote I/O, motion control, drives, PID control, user guidance, visualization and data handling, along with a maximum integration level to the enterprise though the use of Ethernet TCP/IP, Internet, and IT standards. "While several process automation suppliers out there today are capable of doing plant wide control, there is typically a distinction made in the hardware, or the process automation system is given a separate product designation from the logic or motion control platform. Rockwell Automation does process, logic and motion all in ControlLogix and essentially makes no distinction in terms of the hardware - it's all Logix - and the software environment is all Logix Integrated Architecture. When you look at most of the DCSs or process automation systems available on the market today, they normally have a large direct sales force and can offer a full range of services for configuration, installation, commissioning and startup. While Rockwell Automation has a rapidly growing services business, their primary channel to its largest market is industrial distribution, so they must provide more of an off-the-shelf solution. The real advantage here for Rockwell Automation is their embracing of the PAC model will help provide them with an entry in many small to medium size applications, particularly in the hybrid industries, where end users may not have previously considered applying a conventional DCS or process automation system. One additional point - while many suppliers have embraced the PAC concept, Rockwell Automation is so far the only supplier embracing PAC to have a presence in the process automation system marketplace. "We at ARC do not advocate any one platform or solution over another, but I don't think that saying that one supplier is unique in a certain respect is being prejudiced. I guess we should have been more clear as to why they are unique and hopefully this explanation helps clarify that." Larry O'Brien Research Director for Process Industries ARC Advisory Group