Rockwell Automation held its 29th Annual Automation Fair as a virtual, online event: Rockwell Automation Fair at Home. The event attracted around 40,000 registered attendees, with more than 25,000 of those attendees taking the virtual tours. As always, the event provided a great opportunity for customers to learn, network, and keep informed about new products, technologies, and services. The company held virtual tours of its Rockwell Automation Experience, which featured the digital engineering experience and the digital thread experience in addition to an extensive products and technology showcase. More than 65 companies from Rockwell Automation’s PartnerNetwork program participated in the exhibit hall. Other highlights of the event included a dedicated track for the company’s Process Solutions User’s Group (PSUG) a Digital Strategists(DX) track, a Bold Conversations track (about the need for diversity and inclusion), and opportunities for participants to accumulate professional development hours by participating in virtual hands-on labs and technology sessions.
As a general theme, the event focused on letting the company’s customers know “what’s next” in industrial automation and digital transformation.
Rockwell Automation’s Next
In his opening keynote, Blake Moret, Rockwell Automation’s Chairman and CEO, commented: “It’s been a year of challenges like we’ve never seen before, but it’s also been a year of opportunities to increase resilience, agility, and sustainability.”
According to Mr. Moret throughout the pandemic and all this change, Rockwell Automation’s strategy has remained the same: bringing the Connected Enterprise to life. It’s about expanding human possibility, turning “what-if” into “what is,” and providing real value to customers.”
He also mentioned how Rockwell Automation has been working with companies such as Roche and Johnson & Johnson to help with the pandemic. For example, when Roche needed to quickly transform three plants to manufacture COVID-19 antibody test kits, Rockwell Automation’s engineering experts worked collaboratively with Roche using the Pharma Suite MES software solution. Johnson & Johnson needed to change its production setups to enforce social distancing requirements and worked with Rockwell Automation and robotics to create a safe working environment for J&J’s employees.
Resilience, Agility, and Sustainability
According to Mr. Moret, Rockwell Automation helps its customers improve resilience by minimizing supply chain pain points; supporting traceability to help ensure safe, high-quality products; providing technology to support remote operations and monitoring and help organizations re-shore/near-shore their manufacturing to be closer to their customer markets. The company supports increased agility via flexible manufacturing, including using precision motion control to add control from one packaging format to another with software to schedule production down to an economical lot size of one. And when it comes to sustainability, Rockwell Automation is committed to a carbon-neutral future, including increased energy efficiency and recycling for the circular economy.
Manufacturing Software and Integrated Supply Chain
When it comes to the Connected Enterprise, Rockwell Automation practices what it preaches. The company uses this strategy across its own manufacturing and internal supply chain to gain experience and help solve real-world challenges related to macroeconomic conditions, manufacturing resilience, avoiding unplanned downtime, and improving manufacturing processes. Ernest Nicolas, Senior Vice President, Integrated Supply Chain, provided a virtual tour of Rockwell Automation’s manufacturing plants and supply chains from around the world and explained how its own experience has helped customers.
Chris Nardeccia, Senior Vice President, Software and Control and CIO, discussed the importance of information management and digital transformation. According to Mr. Nardeccia, the company is in a unique position to understand customer challenges and apply learning to their journeys. He believes that it is important for companies to accelerate their digital maturity and take advantage of advanced technologies.
Enhanced Asset Management Software
The company released updated FactoryTalk AssetCentre software, designed to help its users more efficiently manage plant-floor devices and protect against unscheduled downtime. This latest software release helps users to more easily manage device firmware and expands disaster-recovery support to several new devices. Users can see product safety advisories, release notes, and product notices from a centralized location. The updated FactoryTalk AssetCentre software now also provides disaster-recovery support for more Rockwell Automation managed switches, overload relays, drives, and CompactLogix and ControlLogix process controllers. In addition, expanded integration between the AssetCentre software and ThinManager thin client software allows companies to limit user access to specific files.
New Capabilities in FactoryTalk InnovationSuite
Rockwell Automation announced the release of a set of new capabilities for FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC. This software suite offers integrated Industrial IoT, edge-to-cloud analytics, manufacturing execution system (MES), and augmented reality (AR) capabilities to support digital transformation. New enhancements to InnovationSuite include FactoryTalk Edge Gateway. This enhances the fidelity of operational technology (OT) data with contextualization using the Rockwell Automation FactoryTalk Smart Object capability and packages it to a configurable data model that can be mapped to upstream IT applications to support visibility into the enterprise.
The company recently expanded its relationship with Microsoft to help accelerate digital agility from edge to cloud by integrating this unified data model with PTC’s ThingWorx IIoT Solutions Platform and Microsoft Azure IoT Hub. In addition, FactoryTalk Analytics now offers an array of simplified data science and other new capabilities.
Improved MCC Integration with Modbus TCP Networks
Rockwell Automation released a new communication module developed with its Encompass Partner, HMS Networks. The new module is designed to improve CENTERLINE 2100 and CENTERLINE 2500 motor control center (MCC) integration into Modbus TCP networks. This includes existing distributed control systems (DCS) that use Modbus TCP as the communication protocol, making it particularly significant for the heavy process industries.
Expansion of Kinetix Integrated Motion Drives
The company’s motion business introduced an expansion to its Kinetix line of servo drives with its new Allen-Bradley Kinetix 5300 servo drive. This is an integrated, CIP Motion solution for machine builders looking to help increase performance and leverage a single design environment for control and motion. The new drives are designed for diverse machine applications, such as electronics assembly, packaging and converting, printing, and web (CPW). Like other Kinetix integrated motion drives, Kinetix 5300 leverages Studio 5000 as a single design environment. This allows machine builders to program all their drives in this one design environment and reuse code across drives.
LifecycleIQ Services and Cybersecurity
Rockwell Automation launched a new brand at Automation Fair at Home: LifecycleIQ Services. It represents a full suite of professional services across the customer’s lifecycle – from digital consulting to cybersecurity to workforce support. LifecycleIQ Services combines the company’s deep domain knowledge and technology. For example, the company has technical experience and specific cybersecurity services to address complex security challenges in IT/OT environments. These services can help customers adopt a more proactive cybersecurity approach. As more companies connect their plants to remote workers and partners, Rockwell Automation can help manage those connections and provide secure remote access.
LifecycleIQ Services can also help companies address their unique workforce challenges and gaps by assessing needs, identifying priorities, and creating workforce development programs. Rockwell Automation uses remote support capabilities and augmented reality technologies to help companies interact virtually with support engineers, strengthen skills with virtual training, and provide remote safety and security services.
New Acquisitions and Partnerships
Rockwell Automation has also been busy over the past few years acquiring new companies, forming new partnerships, and enhancing older partnerships to help fulfill the promise of the Connected Enterprise.
Cybersecurity Services with Avnet and Oylo
For example, Rockwell Automation acquired privately held Avnet Data Security, LTD, an Israeli-based cybersecurity provider and Oylo, a privately-held industrial cybersecurity services provider based in Barcelona, Spain. Avnet’s IT cybersecurity expertise, complements Oylo’s OT cybersecurity expertise and allows Rockwell Automation to accelerate its global delivery capability in this rapidly developing market and expands the offering of cybersecurity services available to the industrial market.
New Digital Transformation Services with Kalypso
Rockwell Automation acquired privately held, Kalypso, LP, a US-based software and consulting firm with customers in the life sciences, consumer products, and industrial high-tech sectors. Kalypso offers a suite of consulting, digital innovation, enterprise technology and business process management services that help enable the transformation of product design and development, production management, and client service models.
ASEM for Fast Time to Market for IPCs
Rockwell Automation acquired ASEM, a leading provider of digital technologies for industrial PCs and software. Based in Italy, this acquisition will help Rockwell Automation further expand its reach in Europe. At Automation Fair, ASEM exhibited visualization and control hardware and software and Industrial IoT gateways that can integrate smart devices, control platforms, and design and operational software on a single network.
Extended Partnerships with PTC and Microsoft
Rockwell Automation’s Blake Moret and Jim Heppelman, President and CEO of PTC also announced an extension of their already successful partnership. The company also announced an extension of its partnership with Microsoft, including co-innovation of cloud-native solutions.
Ansys and Digital Twin
Simulation software supplier, ANSYS, provides an end-to-end solution for design, automation, production, and lifecycle management. Rockwell and ANSYS will partner to help customers design simulation-based digital twins of products or manufacturing processes. The goal is to enable customers to use simulation to design and test products to accelerate development, reduce testing time, and improve product quality.
As Mr. Moret commented, “While these technologies and digital twins and engineering simulation may have been optional a decade or two ago, in today’s environment, they are necessities. It’s about bridging the chasm between engineering and manufacturing. It’s about solving problems such as unpredictable downtime, quality issues during assembly, and launch delays – challenges that have existed for decades.”
Emulate 3D, Virtual Simulation, and Digital Thread
Virtual simulation on the front-end of production allows users to better leverage the entire digital thread. Once a machine or production line is running, manufacturers can create a digital twin of their manufacturing process to create and test virtual what-if scenarios.
Rockwell Automation acquired Emulate3D in 2019, an engineering software developer whose products digitally simulate and emulate industrial automation systems. By using simulation models to help improve systems planning and decision-making, followed by emulation trials that test the control system before installation, Emulate3D’s software enables customers to virtually test machine and system designs before incurring manufacturing and automation costs and committing to a final design. Rockwell Automation added Emulate3D’s technology to its digital design portfolio to deliver solutions to automotive, logistics, material handling, and other industrial applications. Software is sold as Emulate3D by Rockwell Automation, as part of the company’s FactoryTalk DesignSuite.
Acquisition of Fiix
Rockwell Automation announced an agreement to acquire Fiix, a privately-held, AI-enabled computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) company. Headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Fiix’s cloud-native CMMS creates workflows for scheduling, organizing, and tracking equipment maintenance. It connects to business systems and helps it drive data-driven decisions. The addition of Fiix aligns well with Rockwell Automation’s digitalization software strategy. It also helps enhance the capabilities of the company’s Lifecycle Services business.
Rockwell Automation Fair at Home was all about the Connected Enterprise and, accelerating digital transformation, and what’s next for industrial automation. While participation for this online event was virtual, the company still did a good job of getting its points across.
This virtual event made it apparent that even during the pandemic, the company has continued to pursue its aggressive adoption approach to the digital transformation through new acquisitions, new technologies (such as digital thread and digital twins), and new products, services, and more.
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Keywords: Rockwell Automation Fair 2020, Digital Engineering, Cybersecurity, ARC Advisory Group.