Automation Vendors Look to Future

Dec. 4, 2012
This year a common goal was becoming a partner who will stand by customers as they upgrade and meet the challenges of 21st-century manufacturing

Fall is user group season in the automation industries, and as with the change of seasons, there are certain telltale signs and certain recurring themes. The product roadmap, the user success stories, the newest products, and always the members of the executive team outlining how they see the coming year(s) and future plans for the company.

This year a common goal was becoming a partner who will stand by customers as they upgrade and meet the challenges of 21st-century manufacturing, including the need for more efficiency, while grappling with the challenges of a changing workforce, shifting government regulations, emerging economies and consumer demand for scalable operations.

Satoru Kurosu, senior vice president of Yokogawa's Industrial Automation Marketing headquarters and a member of Yokogawa's board of directors, said at the North America user group conference in New Orleans that scale is important to Yokogawa's vision, and pointed to record revenues of ¥334.7 billion (US $4.2 billion) last fiscal year.

Kurosu touted Yokogawa's value-added operations consulting. Using standards-based functions and products, "We can achieve both plant safety and energy saving at a high level, and maximize human performance using best practices and ergonomics," said Kurosu. "That's why Yokogawa has taken the lead in standards such as ISA 101, ISA 106, ISA 18.2 and in advanced process control."

The Song in Philadelphia

At Rockwell Automation's Automation Fair, held in Philadelphia this year, CEO Keith Nosbusch outlined some of the challenges any company will face in the coming years.

"The coming decade will be the first in 200 years when emerging-market countries contribute more growth than the developed ones," he said. "The emergence of these massive, new middle-class consumer markets is creating significant new demands on resources and, especially, increasing demand for commodities."

He said that these new demands call for new manufacturing capabilities, even as a generation of control and automation engineers begins to retire before their successors can get trained. "This is why we need smart manufacturing, which we define as a highly connected, knowledge-enabled industrial enterprise, in which all business and operating actions are optimized to achieve substantially enhanced productivity, sustainability and economic performance."

Rockwell's response to helping its customers meet these challenges comes in several forms, including more secure Ethernet solutions, improved scale and performance, better ease-of-use, and integrated energy, motion, safety, batch and process information applications. It's also enhancing its solutions and global services by offering more packaged solutions, remote monitoring services and regional engineering centers.