Automation Fair - Automation enables innovation

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Rockwell Automation has hosted the 16th annual Automation Fair event. This year's event showcased the ways manufacturers use industrial automation technology and services from Rockwell Automation and its partners to enable innovation.

As one of the largest free educational forums for manufacturing technology, Automation Fair and Manufacturing Perspectives – the international media day before the main event – provide a place to hear the latest success stories from manufacturers and hear from those leading development in manufacturing technology. Manufacturing Perspectives allowed more than 80 editors from 22 nations access to manufacturing experts, global trade leaders and Rockwell Automation’s own customers to share best practices, explore technologies and discuss key issues, the main theme of the day ‘ Automation Enables Innovation’. Attracting over 10,000 visitors over two days, the event is unlike anything seen in this country, and raised many important issues surrounding the future of manufacturing globally.
In October 2007, Bob Ruff was appointed senior vice president of the Control Products & Solutions segment reporting directly to Keith Nosbusch, chairman and CEO.. Ruff was previously senior vice president, Americas Sales.

Ruff joined Reliance Electric in 1976 and progressed through increasingly responsible positions in both business and sales roles including broad experience in Rockwell’s solutions and services activities. He received his degree in electrical engineering from Akron University. With the recent split of Rockwell in to Architecture and Software?(A&S) and Control Products and Solutions (CPS)?segments, what are the implications for the company as a whole. Where does CPS fit into the global Rockwell Automation?

BR: We made the split when we spun off the power systems segment, the Reliance Dodge offerings. The reason we did it was we had to segment report the company differently when power systems left, publically, because we’re publically traded, and we felt if we didn’t split up these businesses, we may expose some of the businesses in the financial market, and we were not comfortable doing that. It makes sense when you see how well the businesses go together. Steve Eisenbrown looks after architecture and software, I have the other piece of the business.

Mine is the biggest piece of the business, we are now a $5.5 billion dollar company, and I am $3.4 billion of that. People-wise we are fairly evenly split, though we may have a little more, purely because of the size of the manufacturing facility. CPS is a lot more people-intense in its manufacture obviously.

What are your growth plans for the next 12 months?

BR: On our side of the business we made a couple of key acquisitions. Components have always been important to Rockwell, they are the foundation of what we build our products on, but going forward Keith (Nosbusch – CEO and chairman), sees us evolving in to a more solution-based and services company. We have started making some acquisitions in those areas, and we will continue to look for good, viable candidates in those areas to help us complement that business.

If you look at our business in general, it is a very healthy one, I’m referring to control products and solutions. Inherently, with where we want to go on the solutions side, I think if we can gain more direct skills, some inherent knowledge, it will help us get credibility faster in the marketplace. You can surely develop that knowledge internally, but as with IPC Triplex [a recent acquisition], we immediately gained credibility in the SIL-3 safety system side of the business. Those are the key areas we will continue in. ProsCon, is another example. Both these acquisitions fit very well in to the MPS (manufacturing and process solutions) segment, and I think we will continue to look for acquisitions to complement this side of our business.

Could the ProsCon and ICS Triplex acquisitions not have been viewed as competitive to some of your own offerings?

BR: Not really, ProsCon could have been viewed as competitive to our MPS business, but really it complements it. Again, because they had a domain expertise in life sciences that MPS was trying to develop, and I think it would have taken us a while to get there. They had it, so we picked it up! We have had very good feedback, globally, on both these acquisitions.

Rockwell’s sales in the process market grew by 27% globally in 2007, can this market maintain this growth?

BR: Yes. The process space is three times the size of the PLC space, in the overall global market. Rockwell, although we are growing very nicely, is still a small player in that process piece. In the PLC base we have dominant market share, especially in North America.?Regulatory compliance makes process a very, very, very high growth opportunity. 27% is good, but why isn’t it 35 or 40%!

Discussing major trends for 2008, Keith Nosbusch has spoken of greater emphasis on efficiency. What measures is Rockwell taking to improve energy efficiency with the use of its products, services and solutions? What more could it be doing?
I think there is a lot more we can do. In most of those cases, the efficiencies that are applied today are applied on a local basis, not a systems basis. I think there is a big opportunity for us to take some of that individualised efficiency and implement it on a plant-wide basis, and can show some real return on investment. It allows Rockwell to leverage a couple of things. Firstly, it shows we have a core competency in that area. Secondly, it gets us out of the individual pricing dilemma we are in, competing globally, The customer starts to look at value, if you can show them payback. If they are spending, for example $1m, but you can give them $10m in payback over the first year, well they stop price checking you. That is where Rockwell could gain immensely. Our solution businesses have a great opportunity to go out and become industry experts in energy efficiency or energy management and gain market share. We only have a couple of competitors that have the breadth of what we do, the Siemens and ABBs. Because the niche ‘ankle biters’ that might do variable speed drives and motor control centers, cannot compete with us on a broad spectrum.

Russia and Eastern Europe continue to be strong areas for Rockwell, in what areas do their strengths lie?
BR:?We have a great engineering capability and have built a great team of service people who give customers a confidence in Eastern Europe, We are not just there for the short term, we are there to support them long term if they make in an investment in us. One of the first things Jordi Andreu (president of Rockwell’s EMEA region) insisted on as we started moving in to Eastern Europe was for every sales person we put in there, we put in three service people, building that service foundation base. Russia is natural-resource rich, now its currency is a little more stable and has some value to it, and will provide some great opportunities for us. This may be in some of the more traditional industries like steel, or maybe oil and gas.

The skilled labour shortage in the US is dramatic. What measures does Rockwell take as a company in educating and training a future workforce?

BR: Rockwell was started in North America but we learned from Asia, when that market took off, that we needed to go and support educational institutes. I think because we were successful in doing that in China, we are able to use that in Eastern Europe now. Looking at the institutes, we make sure that we are getting technology to them so they have it in their classrooms, we are sponsoring – providing some sort of financial incentive, allowing people to enter the engineering field. The skills shortage is a shortage we feel everywhere. We have to make sure we always have that lifeline of good people coming in to the organisation. Human resources is the number one issue.