Rockwell Automation held their 17th annual Automation Fair event in Nashville, Tennessee on November 19-20.  Attendance was approximately 10,000, with over 5,200 coming from manufacturers, processors, and OEMs.  The Automation Fair event remains foremost a venue for free user training.  Technical sessions, tutorial sessions, and hands-on labs are offered simultaneously with the trade show, which also features Rockwell Automation's Encompass Partners, Business Partners, and Solutions Providers.  Floor traffic was heavy both days, with many exhibitors recording a large number of sales leads. 

 

In ARC's opinion, one of the secrets to the Automation Fair event success is the fact that it is a free training session that just happens to have a trade show running on the side.  The training is what provides the justification that end users and OEMs require to send key personnel to the event, especially during these turbulent economic times.

 

The Global Economy Front and Center at Manufacturing Perspectives

A program held before the opening of the Automation Fair event on November 18 was Manufacturing Perspectives, a daylong interactive session with the global automation media.  The session included Rockwell Automation CEO Keith Nosbusch presenting “A New Era for Manufacturing and Rockwell Automation Business Update”. 

 

Keith was proud of Rockwell Automation’s strong FY2008 performance of $5.7B in annual sales, up 9 percent versus FY2007.  50 percent of those sales occurred outside the US, and it’s projected to rise to 60 percent by 2013.  Keith strongly tied the Automation Fair manufacturing convergence theme to their success with Integrated Architecture, where Logix now has an installed base of over $3B in 2008 and is projected to grow to over $8B by 2013.  A key highlight was Rockwell Automation’s organic sales growth of 27 percent (57 percent with acquisitions) in the process industry, driven by winning large projects at new customers, integrating the ICS Triplex and Pavilion acquisitions, and leveraging their strategic relationships with Endress+Hauser and OSIsoft. 

 

Keith also highlighted recent acquisitions, such as Xi'An Hengsheng Science & Technology Company Limited, a privately held engineering firm located in Xi’an, China that delivers automation solutions to approximately 300 customers in the electrical power petrochemical, coal mining, chemical, oil markets and other heavy process industries in China.  Another Rockwell Automation highlight covered by Keith was their Solutions and Services businesses, with sales growth of 29 percent, including 40 percent organic growth in process applications, and an expanded percentage of services revenue that is under contract.  

 

Due to the continued economic uncertainty, Keith projected FY2009 to finish with between 1 to 5 percent less sales than FY2008, with slower growth in Latin America and Asia Pacific along with some contraction in North America and Europe.  However, from ARC’s perspective, a strong balance sheet, solid liquidity, and an earnings per share forecast that is still projected to be 75-88 percent as high as FY2008, puts Rockwell Automation in a position to aggressively withstand the economic headwinds of FY2009. 

 

Keith’s presentation dovetailed well with Dr. Sam Pitroda, Chairman, India’s National Knowledge Commission, who presented “India’s Emerging Technology Sector, Driving Manufacturing Growth”, which supported ARC’s projections of continued but slower growth in India.

 

The next portion of Manufacturing Perspectives focused on Manufacturing Convergence, both from the perspective of three of Rockwell Automation’s key partners, as well as four of Rockwell Automation’s key customers.  The partners were represented by Wes Olson, Director, US Manufacturing Sales, Cisco; Philippe Charles, CEO, Dassault Systèmes – DELMIA; and Chris Colyer, Director, Worldwide Manufacturing Operations, Microsoft, who all strongly advocated the convergence of Information, Communications, Control, and Power.  These four disciplines of convergence were also supported by the four key customers, Lance Fountaine, Manager of United States IPS, Alcoa; Robert Schlafer, Director of Engineering, PepsiAmericas; Paolo Scarabelli, Manager of Automation and Line Integration, Tetra Pak; and Jim Wetzel, Director of Control and Information Systems, General Mills.

 

Following Manufacturing Convergence, the next portion of Manufacturing Perspectives focused on Sustainable Production, from the perspective of three of Rockwell Automation’s key customers, Dr. James W. Fonda, Networked Systems Technology, The Boeing Company; Mark Lee, Director of Commercial Products Supply Engineering/ELSP, Coca-Cola; and Jim Schulz, Director of Controls and Information Systems, General Mills.  To many manufacturers, sustainability generally refers to production processes and technologies that minimize waste and energy and resource consumption.  Rockwell Automation and their customers feel that sustainability initiatives must go much further and also address workplace safety, product safety and reliability, and reuse of waste products in the reverse supply chain as part of a full portfolio of energy management, safety, and environmental solutions. 

 

The final portion of Manufacturing Perspectives focused on the rising global demand for engineering and technical talent.  This session featured a panel discussion which included Marty Hayes, Assistant Engineering Manager of Engineering/Standards, Mercedes Benz United States Inc.; Emily DeRocco, President of the National Center for the American Workforce, National Association of Manufacturers; Dr. Dianguo Xu, Dean of Electrical Engineering and Automation, Department of the Harbin Institute of Technology in China; and Carl Vieth, Director of Corporate Education for the Department of Engineering Professional Development, University of Wisconsin.  The panel concluded that the current rise in unemployment will not provide enough of a new resource of technical talent to offset the losses in personnel who are retiring from the manufacturing sector unless there is substantial progress made in retraining these workers.  In addition, there must be additional opportunities of providing more automation and manufacturing training programs that may be less time consuming and expensive than four year degree programs.

 

Convergence of IT and Manufacturing

The convergence of manufacturing and IT presents opportunities along with technical and cultural challenges.  This was the subject of the Automation Fair Manufacturing Convergence keynote address made by Keith Nosbusch, along with Bob Honor, Vice President of Information Solutions, Rockwell Automation; and Paul McNabb, Managing Director, Cisco Systems.  To address this, Rockwell Automation partnered with Cisco Systems to introduce Reference Architectures, which are a set of design guidelines and recommendations to help establish a secure network infrastructure built on technology and standards common between IT and manufacturing.  Reference Architectures have expanded to include additional applications and will soon provide additional guidance and best practices for wireless applications, enabling the use of standard wireless technologies using IEEE 802.11n.

 

Manufacturing Convergence also ties together design and production.  To address this, Rockwell Automation announced the availability of a virtual design and production utility that merges virtual simulation and automation for production.  The new utility, available within Rockwell Software RSLogix 5000 version 17 programming software, provides integration with DELMIA V5R19 PLM software from Dassault Systèmes, allowing users to create a virtual design and production environment for concurrent development of mechanical, electrical and control systems.  Through the launch of this new utility, Rockwell Automation and Dassault Systèmes, a Rockwell Automation partner and a leader in 3-D and product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions, are providing a solution that allows collaborative mechanical and control design with bi-directional synchronization.  As a result, manufacturers can access immediate feedback on design changes, thus allowing the testing of various “what if” scenarios in order to continuously optimize manufacturing operations. 

 

FactoryTalk Platform is Core To Integrated Architecture Strategy

At the Automation Fair event, Rockwell Automation announced that it has expanded the platform capabilities of its FactoryTalk Integrated Production and Performance Suite to support a new generation of industry-specific applications for the automotive, CPG and pharmaceutical industries.  The platform now includes configuration tools and capabilities designed to help manufacturers reduce deployment costs and time.  The FactoryTalk platform leverages a service-oriented architecture (SOA) for plant-wide integration to legacy systems.  Its object-oriented design makes it easier to build and modify applications, as well as roll them out across multiple sites in a consistent form, helping manufacturers to establish best practices for operations and regulatory requirements in all industries.  The industry-specific applications include a new workflow engine that allows a business process management (BPM) approach to implementing operational improvements by introducing capacity for managing change.  For example, a contract manufacturer can dynamically manage workflow changes associated with cross-organizational customer order procedures.  Reconfigured manual or automated execution processes are then reflected within the current instance of the application.

 

In addition, the FactoryTalk industry applications incorporate a new user interface into the presentation layer to provide task-based, operator-workflow views.  This makes it easier to direct and shape what the operator is performing on the shop floor for maximum efficiency and repeatability.  These visual panels also assist in role-based activity definition and management.  FactoryTalk Pharma Suite, the first of the series to be launched, comes as a pre-validated software package comprised of standardized weigh-and-dispense workflows.  It includes a set of user interfaces, work order management, work-in-process tracking and inventory management.  While it can be used as a stand-alone system, FactoryTalk Pharma Suite is designed with pre-defined interface scenarios for integration with enterprise resource planning and other business systems, such as laboratory information management systems (LIMS).  Future releases on the FactoryTalk platform also will include industry-specific applications for food, beverage and automotive manufacturers, as well as production execution and performance management features for mobilization across discrete, hybrid and process industries.

 

Incuity Software Acquisition Yields FactoryTalk VantagePoint

Rockwell Automation’s Incuity Software acquisition from earlier this year has led to FactoryTalk VantagePoint  This new addition to FactoryTalk allows end users to self-configure Web-based dashboards, trends and reports without requiring support resources.  FactoryTalk VantagePoint software leverages the FactoryTalk service-oriented architecture and technology acquired through Incuity Software to deliver automatic access to production information from both Rockwell Automation and third-party systems.  Through a familiar Internet browser, Microsoft Office user interfaces and pre-defined connectors to third-party systems, FactoryTalk VantagePoint users can install and configure their systems in a shorter period of time with minimal technical support.  This immediate access to actionable information allows employees at all levels of a production facility to monitor and manage productivity, and exercise more control over high-profile operations such as energy efficiency or global supply-chain execution.  Providing access to information on-demand in an easier-to-use format helps decision support in various aspects of the manufacturing environment such as inventory, maintenance, production, quality, and enterprise and supply-chain planning.  The FactoryTalk VantagePoint application will be offered in multiple versions, allowing manufacturers to select the most appropriate feature-set for their needs.  The first version, FactoryTalk VantagePoint Line Edition (LE), combines data produced by the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture with other third-party production systems in an out-of-the-box solution.  It includes standard, pre-configured reports for managing devices, equipment, alarms, events and control loops, as well as batch or production run and shift reports.  The application also includes trending and dashboard capabilities to support analysis and uses Microsoft Excel for report generation.

 

HMI Software Based On Microsoft Silverlight Technology

Rockwell Automation also introduced FactoryTalk ViewPoint software at the Automation Fair event, which displays scalable, animated web applications from existing FactoryTalk View applications.  FactoryTalk ViewPoint software is a thin-client application for manufacturing built using Microsoft Silverlight technology.  The initial release extends visualization and real-time decision capabilities beyond FactoryTalk View clients to browser-based remote users.  FactoryTalk ViewPoint software supports scalable and animated Web displays of existing FactoryTalk View Site Edition (SE) visualization software and PanelView Plus applications from any Internet browser.  While the initial release is Internet Explorer (IE) compatible, additional browser and device support is planned.  IE’s active hyperlinks and the navigational functionality deliver an interactive experience in addition to typical browser functionality such as favorites, and forward and back navigation buttons.  This visualization software demand is being driven by manufacturers who want to access and aggregate real-time production process information to drive factory visibility and intelligence.  HMI software that utilizes flexible, multifunctional, interoperable platforms and provides thin-client interfaces with other platforms will continue to drive factory visibility and intelligence, as well as play a major role in providing critical information for key performance indicators and plant-wide metrics. 

 

Migrating Legacy Systems to the Integrated Architecture Platform

To help ease migration, Rockwell Automation and its partners demonstrated a selection of migration enablers to help manufacturers leverage their previous automation equipment investments.  Enablers assist in converting databases, configuring graphics and making connections to existing field I/O, and are used in a range of DCS, drive systems and PLC migrations.  Rockwell Automation demonstrated an I/O wiring conversion system that helps users migrate existing control platforms to their ControlLogix programmable automation controller-based I/O platform.  The system is part of the Rockwell Automation migration solutions program and reduces many of the costs, risks and complexities involved with PLC migration projects.  The new conversion system assists in helping manufacturers replace PLC systems that are no longer supported by their original manufacturers with the multi-disciplined Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture platform.  Additionally, the conversion system targets those manufacturers looking to upgrade to a PAC platform.  By preserving existing field wiring, the conversion system helps users reduce downtime, wiring time and labor costs by lessening the number of connections needed to complete the system migration. 

 

Another new development introduced at the Automation Fair event included Accelerator Toolkits, which provide system design, programming, and diagnostic tools and templates to help reduce design and deployment of control systems.  Accelerator Toolkits are now available for safety systems, machine vibration monitoring and analysis, and power control.  The Safety Accelerator Toolkit for GuardLogix programmable automation controllers includes a risk assessment and system design guide, hardware selection guide, CAD drawings, safety logic routines, and operator status and diagnostic faceplates specific to safety systems.  In addition, The Dynamix Surveillance Accelerator Toolkit provides instruments to integrate XM vibration modules into the Logix platform.  The toolkit CD contains design plans for panel layout and wiring, preconfigured HMI and logic, and a quick-start manual.  Also, the PowerFlex Accelerator Toolkit includes a pre-configured panel layout for AC drives, including wiring and HMI faceplates, pre-configured logic required for the HMI faceplates, and common application logic examples.  Finally, Rockwell Automation is preparing the release of additional process function blocks, faceplates, toolsets and documentation created in conjunction with Endress+Hauser, one of Rockwell Automation’s key partners, which allow for integration of instruments and added diagnostics. 

 

Encompass Product Partners and Solutions Providers Play Key Roles

Rockwell Automation’s Encompass Product Partners and Solutions Providers, as well as other partners who exhibited at Automation Fair, demonstrated a wide variety of complementary solutions.  Online Development Inc introduced a new controller-to-controller module at that enables connecting various brands of PLCs without the need to program message instructions.  The cATM Universal Gateway data appliance is available as a module that installs in a Rockwell Automation ControlLogix PAC, or as a standalone module for DIN rail mounting.  Either configuration delivers over 130 protocols for connectivity to thousands of plant floor devices.  The new appliance features a universal driver to connect to Ethernet and serial devices, such as analyzers, bar code readers, weigh scales, RFID systems, serial printers, and label machines.  Target applications for this appliance include M2M (machine-to-machine) communications.  Online Development worked in partnership with Kepware Technologies to develop the cATM Universal Gateway appliance. 

 

Kepware Technologies also highlighted their recent partnership with the OPC Foundation to manage the next generation of OPC technology, OPC-UA, overseeing its development in a community "open source code" model.  The entity will follow the form of a Non-Profit, will be staffed and managed by both Kepware and OPC Foundation personnel, and will manage OPC-UA as a licensable technology.  Participants will have access to source code and will receive a license to use OPC-UA as a component in their products, as well as access to developer forums and a network of participants that deliver training, developer resources, and toolkits supporting the OPC-UA initiative.  This new initiative is scheduled to launch in January of 2009.

 

ProSoft Technology released their new ProLinx Remote I/O Adapter to PROFIBUS DPV1 Master communications module, which creates a connection between devices on a Remote I/O network and PROFIBUS slave devices.  The module is a stand-alone DIN-rail mounted protocol gateway that provides one Remote I/O port and a PROFIBUS DPV1 Master with a RS-485 9-pin D shell female connector interface with isolated Opto-Couplers.  This gateway is a solution for applications where Remote I/O connectivity can be used to integrate a PROFIBUS DPV0/V1 slave device into a system.

 

In Summary, Automation Fair Continues to Deliver Value to Attendees and Exhibitors

In light of the current economic uncertainties and travel restrictions imposed by many companies to control costs, Automation Fair was tremendously well attended and upbeat.  Manufacturers, processors, and OEMs, especially in the Process, Hybrid, and Packaging industries, were still cautiously bullish that Manufacturing Convergence and Sustainable Production provide the return on assets that continue to justify most automation investments, even with plummeting energy and raw material costs in the short term.  Companies such as General Mills spoke of continued growth in 2009 and the importance of investing in automation to remain globally competitive.

 

A primary challenge for Rockwell Automation is to convey the success of Automation Fair to manufacturers around the globe who need additional proof points of a guaranteed return on their potential automation investment.  This will require Rockwell Automation to take these proof points directly to these manufacturers, who seek the metrics and KPIs, such as the OEE of other manufacturers who have recently deployed these automation solutions, to be assured of their payback.  The ability for Rockwell Automation to effectively convey these proof points to manufacturers globally will have a direct affect on Rockwell Automation’s revenue and profit performance in 2009.

 

ARC feels more strongly than ever that manufacturers, processors, and OEMs should seek solutions that incorporate the concepts of PACs and CPS (Collaborative Production Systems), all which are embedded in the principles of Manufacturing Convergence.  ARC also recognizes that it takes partnerships to deliver global best in class solutions and feels that manufacturers, processors, and OEMs should leverage the best enterprise and automation solutions as part of their decision making process.  Rockwell Automation continues to demonstrate their commitment to the PAC and CPS concepts by making Integrated Architecture a company-wide obsession that permeates throughout their entire organization, as well as a common denominator theme throughout all aspects of the Automation Fair event. 

 

Finally, Rockwell Automation’s commitment to partnerships is clearly demonstrated by their key role at the Automation Fair event, ranging from the Cisco Systems keynote, to prominent visibility for Dassault Systèmes, Endress+Hauser, and Microsoft.