Automation Fair

Teamwork needed to tackle transformation tasks

By Chris McNamara

Nov 22, 2019

Sponsored by Rockwell Automation

“Achieve successful digital transformation with a trusted, integrated ecosystem of experts to enable productivity and agility in your industrial operations.” That’s how Rockwell Automation touted its Digital Partner Program in the exhibit hall at Automation Fair 2019 this week, complete with a booth hosted by some of those experts from both Rockwell Automation and partner companies.

“We know that Rockwell Automation can’t satisfy every aspect of what our customers need for their digital transformations,” explained Mike Pantaleano, Rockwell Automation director of business development, architecture & software. “So we have a rich ecosystem of partners to help them with all the different aspects.”

Additionally, he noted, customers oftentimes are already working with the Rockwell Automation partners in different capacities—perhaps on the operations or IT side—which further eases adoption.

Just as there are plenty of aspects to digital transformation, Rockwell Automation has plenty of partners, which they categorize into four groups: advisors, technology providers, content providers and system integrators.

Advisors — Rockwell’s focus is on industrial transformation, but they partner with strategic advisory firms such as Accenture to bolster the ability to guide customers on business elements. “They were a great partner to start with,” said Pantaleano. “They came to us and said ‘Our customers want us to go deeper. Go further.’ This partnership enables us to do that.”

Technology providers — Think enterprises like Microsoft, ANSYS or OSIsoft, which have different functions than Rockwell in digital engineering and analytics and can offer those unique perspectives to clients.

Pantaleano used this example: when a customer asks if Rockwell Automation can deploy to the cloud, he explains that they rely on a partnership with Microsoft to do so. “Microsoft is best in breed. The customer trusts that name. And it makes sense because they are doing cloud at scale across the globe.”

Content Providers — These are partners who build on Rockwell platforms, and can come from either of the first two categories. “Consider a hardware partner like FANUC, which develops subsystems that goes into our customers’ finished products,” said Pantaleano. “They can develop content for our FactoryTalk InnovationSuite or FactoryTalk DesignSuite tools and make that available to customers.”

System Integrators — These are the partners who actually do the heavy lifting of deployment. Rockwell Automation has long employed regional integrators, and is now expanding that program to develop a network of partnerships with larger, global players in the integration services space.

“We have excellent capabilities within our own Analytics Service Group; they are our ninjas. But when we want to do scope and scale, being able to reach customers all across the globe, this strong network of system integrators can get to work locally.”

Teamwork tackling transformations

Industry (manufacturing in particular) is growing more complex by the day. The size, time-commitment and cost of digital-transformation projects—“once in a lifetime” programs, as the Rockwell Automation team labels them—are factors that warrant solution-provider partnerships like these.

“It is very important to our customers that they build scalable solutions that can span multiple years, that are sustainable for multiple programs and projects,” said Chirayu Shah, Rockwell Automation manager of IIoT & software partnering, global business development. “Customers are looking for a partnership approach as opposed to just a single vendor. They’re not just looking for us to sell them a specific product or solution, they are looking for us to build a joint vision together.”

“Digital transformation can be hard for companies,” added Pantaleano. “We’re at an interesting inflection point. Brain drain. The deskilling of an aging workforce. Aging infrastructure with old DCSs and pre-Ethernet systems. This simplifies the discussion. Partnering has been in our DNA since the start of the company. This is taking partnership and extending it into the digital transformation era.”