Rockwell Automation Fair 2010 - Smart, Safe & Sustainable Manufacturing

Rockwell Automation Fair 2010 - Smart, Safe & Sustainable Manufacturing

 
By Bill Lydon - Editor, December 2010
 
Showing consistency, the 2010 Rockwell Automation Fair theme was the same as 2009, “Smart, Safe and Sustainable Manufacturing.” As usual, the Rockwell Automation Fair was an impressive event with over 8,000 attendees, with exhibitors including 82 Encompass partners, 6 machine builders, 3 alliance partners, 7 solution partners, and 7 universities. Training is a big part of the event and allows users to justify the time and money to attend. Training opportunities this year included hands-on labs, technical sessions, and demonstration workshops. Technical Sessions covered 15 areas including control design, data management, process control, power, and sustainability.
 
The Rockwell Automation PSUG (Process Solutions User Group) was held in conjunction with Automation Fair and was attended by over 640 people including customers, system integrators, solution providers, OEMs and other partners.
 
The day before Automation Fair, I attended the annual Manufacturing Perspectives hosted by Rockwell for media, analysts, and selected guests for a day of presentations about the company, products, industry views, and showcases customer successes. 
Shortly after Automation Fair, on December 8, 2011, Rockwell had an investor and analyst conference reporting on fiscal year 2010 sales of approximately $4.9 billon with about 50% of revenues outside the USA and services accounting for about 10% of business.
 
Rockwell continues to focus on emerging markets representing about 20% of sales with over 40% of employees and manufacturing in those regions.
 
Steve Eisenbrown, senior vice president, Architecture & Software
Before Steve Eisenbrown presented at Manufacturing Perspectives, he showed a video highlighting the replacement of an existing DCS at the Golden Triangle Energy Cooperative ethanol pant located in Craig, Missouri. The plant produces approximately 20 million gallons of ethanol each year. The existing system that had been running the plant since it opened in 2001 was replaced with a PlantPAx system engineered and installed by Bachelor Controls Inc. of Sabetha, Kan., a Rockwell authorized system integrator.
 
After the video, Eisenbrown gave what he described as an, “Overview of what is happening on the process front inside of Rockwell Automation.” He described the problems existing in manufacturing today were “due to legacy automation and middleware systems and the lack of a cohesive vision to integrate them together.” Eisenbrown said, “Today companies in process industries face huge challenges including rising energy costs, increased prices of natural resources, operating enterprises that are global and asset intensive and require high flexibility, and managing through a series of DCS technology obsolescence which they are facing.” Further complicating this is a range of other requirements including environmental, safety, and security compliance. Eisenbrown described Rockwell’s vision, “We look at plant wide optimization as merging of management, operations, and engineering objectives to create a responsive and sustainable production environment capable of delivering the exceptional performance and robust knowledge of the product and processes to minimize cost and improve customer responsiveness”. He emphasized how Rockwell has been focused on integrating plant wide control, power, safety, and information into, “a single value proposition” to deliver more value. “Core to our value proposition is the concept of pant wide control - the ability of a unified control and information platform to be utilized for discrete and process manufacturing processes and operations,” said Eisenbrown.
 
Eisenbrown described the latest PlantPAx system release 2 that features high availability and standard Ethernet/IP redundancy from the I/O layer to the enterprise to further enhance the system. Eisenbrown commented, “…in the past we have noted one of the challenges for Rockwell to grow in process is to bring in the domain expertise,” explaining that they have been bringing in hundreds of process experts including field sales people, support infrastructure, and services people. 
 
Eisenbrown also noted that OEM machine builders are another major part of the company’s strategy and he described how OEM machine builders and end users both need products that fit into plant wide optimization with connection into plant systems for greater efficiency.
 
CISCO
The close alliance with CISCO to deliver automation solutions between control and the IT environment was repeatedly emphasized during the day. Rockwell noted they are collaborating to create Allen-Bradley branded products for plant Ethernet deployment. The Rockwell Stratix modular, managed switches incorporate the Cisco operating system, user environment and feature set that is exclusive to the Rockwell offering.
 
Executive Commentary
Keith Nosbusch, Chairman/CEO, and Sujeet Chand, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, made comments about the continued expansion of Rockwell Integrated Architecture highlighting “standard unmodified Ethernet infrastructure” and “manufacturing intelligence.”
 
Nosbusch explained that Ethernet is the driving force and emphasized their relationship with CISCO to provide reliable and secure networking for plant wide optimization. He noted that, “CISCO is a very critical strategic partner, and certainly because of their global leadership in the IT infrastructure world they are a natural partner for Rockwell Automation to help our customers create that same environment on the pant floor.” “We mentioned a number of times now the importance of Ethernet and how that is the fastest growing network on the plant floor and certainly we believe that the ability to create this partnership with CISCO allows us to bring standard unmodified Ethernet from the IT world into the plant floor to create this seamless integration….also it is about doing this in a safe and secure environment…Rockwell and CISCO are the only partners that are capable of doing this today.”
 
Nosbusch described a recent visit to China where he visited a Rockwell customer that will have one of the most automated, sophisticated plants in the world that is designed for sustainability. 
 
Nosbusch highlighted a new family of controllers, “the Micro800 family focused on simple standalone machines.”  He explained this family is for emerging markets where the machinery builders and OEM builders are generally producing machines that don’t require the sophistication and performance of Logix platforms. The Micro800 controller includes a new software toolset - the Connected Components Workbench™. Sujeet explained the software workbench for this product line provides a single programming environment for control, drives, and operator display.
 
Thoughts & Observations
Rockwell people throughout Automation Fair stressed that putting reliable, high performance networks together is “easy” using the cobranded CISCO switches. The logical conclusion is that if a user wants a reliable and high performance Ethernet/IP network they need to only use the cobranded Rockwell/CISCO switches.
 
The Rockwell Automation relationship with Endress+Hauser was described as a “preferred partner” making their products easier to use - doing things such as “embedding our (Rockwell Automation) technology in their devices.” This may be one of the ways to get more like a DCS.
 
Sustainability and energy optimization were topics of major discussion in presentations and Rockwell now has 20 CEM (Certified Energy Manager) people in North America to do energy site surveys using a Rockwell developed process and software that generates a 50 page report.   The CEM is awarded by the AEE (Association of Energy Engineers) and has gained industry-wide use as the standard for qualifying energy professionals both in the United States and abroad. CEM is recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Office of Federal Energy Management Programs (FEMP), and the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as by numerous state energy offices, major utilities, corporations and energy service companies.
 
I was surprised and confused that Rockwell introduced the new Micro800 PLC product line. This PLC family has its own software for programming, called the Connected Components Workbench. The product line is part of the Connected Components group and designed for machine builders that do not need the features of the Logix architecture. This product is a very low end PLC and I will write a separate review of it very soon.
 
Rockwell was demonstrating CIP Sync and the Rockwell expert presenting this to media stated, “What we have the ability to do uniquely is not have to segregate what we are doing with motion control from everything else”. He described having motion control, cameras, controls, and other devices on one Ethernet to save wiring costs on machines. I asked for configuration information and performance statistics and was told the information would be sent to me since this could not be answered by people demonstrating the products. I will publish this information when available. Also, I was told that performance comparisons to other motion networks will be published in the future.
 
PlantPAx release 2 moves Rockwell another step closer to a DCS. The question is, how much closer? I will be publishing an article on this soon.