Rockwell Automation held its 2022 Automation Fair in-person event in Chicago, IL on November 16-17, 2022. The company had in-person attendance of over 15,000 users and partners choosing from a number of product and technology sessions, industry forums, hands-on labs, and both Rockwell Automation and partner exhibits on the show floor.
As usual, two other events were also held just prior to Automation Fair, including the Rockwell Automation Process Solutions Users Group (PSUG), which was held from November 14-15, 2022. PSUG had over 700 persons attending 14 customer and 30 technical sessions and 8 hands-on labs. The other event was Perspectives, held on November 15, which was a half-day session focused on providing the global media and analyst community with in-depth presentations and discussions with both the company’s senior leadership team as well as some key customers and success stories.
Rockwell Automation’s solutions featured throughout all the Automation Fair events were focused on helping its customers to better optimize production, empower workers, manage risk, drive sustainability, and accelerate digital transformation, all of which are designed to help its customers become more operationally resilient and thrive in an environment where often the only certainty is uncertainty.
PSUG: Releases of FLEXHA 5000 I/O Family and PlantPAx 5.2
PSUG was kicked off with keynote presentations from Rockwell Automation’s Jim Winter, Director, Global Process Business; and Dave Rapini, PlantPAx Global Business Manager. Jim’s presentation focused on customer challenges such as supply chain, workforce availability and experience, and cybersecurity; along with the need to adhere to standards, such as OPAF’s O-PAS version 1.0 for open process automation and IEC 62443 for cybersecurity. Dave’s presentation followed with tools to address these challenges, such as using low-code/no-code software and reusable software blocks due to lack of workforce experience and availability. However, both presentations highlighted the latest release of Rockwell Automation’s FLEXHA 5000 I/O family that offers high availability and full redundancy as well as the evolution of the PlantPAx Distributed Control System (DCS) to version 5.2.
The new FLEXHA 5000 I/O module is a platform that helps to reduce hardware complexity and cost by using a more integrated design. FLEXHA 5000 I/O modules enhance communication with 1 Gb EtherNet/IP network connectivity, offering higher speed and increased bandwidth. Designed to be a smarter, more efficient I/O solution. The FLEXHA 5000 I/O platform, in conjunction with PlantPAx, provides tighter integration with instruction sets in the PlantPAx system. Customers gain support for ControlLogix 5580 controller redundancy in high availability applications from Studio 5000 Logix Designer software (version 35 or later).
The FLEXHA 5000 I/O platform also helps customers to further optimize their footprint by enabling them to mount up to 24 I/O modules on a single node, vertically or horizontally, and in any module sequence. A reduction in downtime can also be achieved with a more simplified Removal and Insertion Under Power (RIUP) and easier online changes. FLEXHA 5000 I/O modules contain a universal card option that allows for flexibility in I/O choice. Universal I/O helps to simplify field wiring, reduce spare module requirements, and reduce maintenance time. This I/O choice is configurable per channel during runtime as analog (HART capable) or discrete, input or output. Modules can also be configured in simplex or duplex. In the future, the FLEXHA 5000 I/O platform will allow for integrated safety I/O and base process control I/O to be mounted in the same rack, which helps to reduce hardware complexity and the cost of the PlantPAx system.
Also, as part of the PSUG event, a special invite was extended to attendees to see the PlantPAx 5.1 DCS integrated with Endress+Hauser (E+H) instrumentation and Allen-Bradley (AB) Power Control on a live system. Approximately 45 people reserved their exclusive spot to attend the Endress+Hauser Process Training Unit (PTU) live tour, which was held at the George E Booth Co. in Romeoville, IL. PTUs are full-scale, working process skids with on-line instrumentation and controls. The in-person PlantPAx training experience made it possible for attendees to engage one-on-one with presenters, participate in group Q&A discussions, and have hands-on access to the “mini process plant” systems.
Other highlights of PSUG included an eight-person keynote panel that was focused on trends regarding sustainability, Digital Transformation, agility, supply chain, and workforce. Joining Carol Schafer, Global Sr. Marketing Manager of LifecycleIQ Services at Rockwell Automation, who was the moderator, was Jim Winters, who emphasized how change because of these trends can be very difficult for many companies and how they require companies such as Rockwell Automation to provide support. Craig Resnick, Vice President at ARC Advisory Group, covered the trends in depth and emphasized that sustainability in the plant is as much of an operational resilience, supply chain and workforce story as it is an energy, ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance), circular economy and net zero story. Pete Morell, Global OEM Industry Director at Rockwell Automation, talked about how the company helps its customers to reach their net zero and carbon neutral goals.
John Steckler, Director of North American Process Automation at ADM, discussed his company’s sustainability goals of its supply chain, including decreasing its greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2035. Kumar Sokka, Global Business Director for Digital at Rockwell Automation, discussed why customers come to the company for consulting, citing driving fast value, scaling up, change management, and solving difficult digitalization. Andrea Monte, Vice President Operations at Sensia, discussed the oil and gas industry’s digital transformation challenges, such as standardizing in various conditions and geographies, long oil field lifecycles, and knowledge leaving with the workforce.
Mark Massey, Global Electrical & Controls Manager at Primient, a producer of food and industrial products from plant-based, renewable sources, discussed flexible manufacturing and the need to move quickly to meet changing product requirements and how continuous manufacturing processes require more of a batch mentality to meet consumer demands. Finally, Tim Shope, Vice President of Digital Transformation at Endress+Hauser, discussed flexible manufacturing and an example of green hydrogen facilities that require digital transformation technology to compensate for lack of staffing.
PSUG Digital Transformation Success Stories
There were several customer case study presentations at PSUG, including, for example, how Idaho Jersey Girls Dairy located in Idaho uses PlantPAx to efficiently operate and control the milk process and other supporting systems required to milk over 30,000 cows three times a day producing over 1.5 million pounds of milk per day. Also, how one of the world's largest cosmetic manufacturers completed control system modernization from numerous hard skid-based control systems to one plantwide virtualized SCADA system, covering the value of modernization, how cyber requirements are essential, and the benefits of utilizing connected enterprises for plantwide control. In addition, how Peña Colorada Mine, implemented a complete migration from a legacy DCS for their pelletizing process to PlantPAx 5.0 due to industry references, scalability, and a standardized architecture/programming that the local community of system integrators and plant’s team could support. Finally, how ThermoFisher leveraged PlantPAx 5.0 and LifeCycleIQ Services for implementing sterile environment air quality control system for vaccine production lines, benefitting from seamless integration of legacy systems for unifying HMI and Critical GMP Alarm and Historical data management.
Leadership Provides Perspectives to Kick Off Automation Fair
Blake Moret, Chairman & CEO of Rockwell Automation kicked off the Perspectives event by sharing Rockwell Automation’s vision to deliver innovative solutions that are resilient, agile, and sustainable. Blake discussed how the company is focused on simplifying the complexities of manufacturing for hardware, software, and services. The company, which prides itself on being a pure-play automation provider, wants its solutions to help to ignite the insights that fuel its customer’s successes. Making the complex simple includes the combination of best-in-class technology along with a powerful partner ecosystem, bringing ingenuity across the value chain through broad domain expertise and deep industry insights. Blake emphasized the company’s view of the five components of ingenuity, which include optimizing production, empowering the workforce, managing risk, driving sustainability, and accelerating transformation. Together, this will enable the seamless flow from the plant floor to the top floor and across the enterprise, connecting the imaginations of people with the potential of technology.
Make Better Decisions and Expand Human Possibility
Rockwell Automation had several senior executives from both inside and outside of Rockwell Automation present. Highlights from a few of these presentations include Cyril Perducat, Senior Vice President and CTO at Rockwell Automation discussed speed and complexity, large scale production challenges, and defining paths for growth via the five components of ingenuity that Blake defined leveraging digital transformation, to take manufacturing to a whole new level. Cyril covered the shift from automation, where a system is programmed to perform tasks, to autonomy, where a system learns to perform tasks and adapts. Examples include control concepts shifting from programmable logic to include adaptive learning, personnel shifting from control engineers to include data scientists, inputs shifting from knowledge of engineering principles to include datasets of diverse historical observations, and complexity shifting from low variable problems and linear, static, and constant processes to include multi-variable, non-linear, time dynamic and continuous adaptation. This shift will enable humans to make better decisions and expand human possibility, leading the way for human-centric innovations.
Tessa Myers, Senior Vice President of Intelligent Devices at Rockwell Automation, discussed some common customer concerns, such as ensuring workers are ready for tomorrow’s economy, inflation broadening across spending categories, and supplier price increases, as well as some Rockwell Automation solutions that help customers to address some of their concerns. In the area of transformation of production logistics, examples include unified robotics providing one control platform for motion and robotics, and independent cart technology that can improve efficiency and throughput by up to 50 percent. In the area of helping customers produce more locally, examples include FLEXHA 5000 I/O, featured in PSUG, that can cut programming time by 50 percent, Armor PowerFlex drives that speed installation by fewer manual connections, and system design tools that can reduce engineering time by up to 30 percent, all of which can result in reductions in programming times and machine footprints. And finally in the area of data-driven sustainability, examples include PowerFlex drives to reduce energy use by up to 30 percent and Guardlink safety-based communications protocol that links safety to The Connected Enterprise that can identify issues quickly of thousands of devices generating data, which in a case study can potentially lower greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent.
Brian Shepherd, Senior Vice President of Software and Control at Rockwell Automation, discussed businesses achieving agility and “cheetah” speed thanks to the cloud enabling faster business outcomes by changing the way persons work, accelerating time to value, boosting collaboration, and scaling access to data. This is achieved by the company’s FactoryTalk Hub, which consists of FactoryTalk Design Hub, FactoryTalk Operations Hub, and FactoryTalk Maintenance Hub. FactoryTalk Design Hub consists of five core solutions, FactoryTalk Design Studio, FactoryTalk Optix, FactoryTalk Twin Studio, FactoryTalk Vault, and FactoryTalk Remote Access solution. FactoryTalk Operations Hub consists of solutions, such as Plex, used to automate and digitize business processes, track data from the plant floor to the top floor, and deliver visibility, quality, and control. FactoryTalk Maintenance Hub consists of solutions, such as Fiix, used to centralize and digitize maintenance, trigger work with real-time data, and drive decisions with applied AI. The company looks at data as something that is born at the device, managed at the edge, and liberated in the cloud, helping companies take their manufacturing to a whole new level.
Sustainability and Energy Transition Sessions
Sustainability was highlighted in multiple sessions at the Automation Fair, spanning not only across optimizing resource utilization, circular economy, energy efficiency and other environmental drivers, but also including the environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) areas of importance. For example, Tom O'Reilly, Vice President of Sustainability at Rockwell Automation, and Pete Morell, Global OEM Industry Director at Rockwell Automation, presented the company’s vision of Net Zero innovation. They described the accomplishments of the company’s sustainability team which had been working on three aspects of the net zero innovation theme: focus on sustainability for Rockwell Automation's customers; Rockwell Automation's own sustainability goals, and the impact that Rockwell Automation can make in the wider achievement of sustainable communities. Both Tom and Pete described numerous projects where Rockwell Automation is enabling its customers to transition to a low carbon, circular economy, while meeting future net zero goals, through new pilot and infrastructure programs in support of green hydrogen as well as expansion of liquid hydrogen capacity.
FactoryTalk Energy Manager
One of the company’s key sustainability solutions is FactoryTalk Energy Manager, which is a scalable enterprise energy solution employed to monitor electric and piped energy assets, and includes preconfigured dashboards for energy consumption, demand, energy intensity, production data, costs, and CO2 emissions, along with plant-centric views. Such tools are needed in order to fill the large gaps between current performance and long-term decarbonization and net zero goals. In this regard, Alexandra Schwertner, Sustainability Strategy and Technology Leader at Rockwell Automation presented the need for action plans in relation to Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Capabilities for getting energy performance metrics from industrial equipment require the addition of deep OT context and organizational tools better organize, manage, and glean insights from industrial data.
Sinethemba Zulu, Sustainability Technology Architect at Rockwell Automation, presented a trend which ARC Advisory Group has been highlighting for some time, regarding how it is not an either/or proposition when it comes to companies that are considering how to increase profitability and how to become more sustainable in terms of having a more positive impact on the environment. Instead, it can be a win-win situation with the right approach to meet OT challenges.
In addition, Frank Schirra, Offering Manager, Sustainability Solutions at Rockwell Automation, highlighted values derived from utilization of existing systems in a consistent way, in real-time, whereby organizations can create mechanisms to analyze the data before acting on sustainability goals. One such sustainable outcome is energy. The automated extraction of energy data, awareness and availability can lead to energy improvements and smarter operations. While deeper industrial process electrification and greater uptake of use of renewable sources of electricity are big contributors to net zero goals, it is important to also note vital importance of other energy management and optimization of usage of water and processes associated with other resources and waste reduction targets.
Enabling Circular Economy with Automation Repair Services
Rockwell Automation’s Jim Kuehn, Global Operations Manager; Jason Mannion, Global Program Manager, Digital Insights & Sustainability Services; and Ashley Reyes, Engineering Operations Manager, presented LifecycleIQ Services, which includes a sustainability calculator tool in its solution set that enables remanufacturing and repair services, inventory and spare parts solutions, and repair and storeroom management. Together these solutions help to prolong the life of industrial automation assets, and save costs compared to buying new replacement products. Aside from increasing product life, they also help to reduce downtime. The initiative helps to leverage ways in which remanufacturing is an enabler of sustainability, through emissions reduction and the associated overall impacts with respect to energy, water, and waste, and by providing an estimated 85 percent energy savings and 90 percent raw materials savings via remanufacturing compared to production of a new unit. The latter includes reduction in the fastest-growing source of waste globally, which is electronic waste.
OEMs Delivering Results in Uncertain Times
One of the highlights of Automation Fair are the 11 Industry Forums, focused on Warehousing/Logistics, Life Sciences, Water/Wastewater, OEM, Automotive/Tire, Sustainability, Mining/Metals, Oil & Gas, Food & Beverage, Pulp & Paper, and Chemical industries. Highlighting one of the industry forums is how OEMs are delivering results in times of uncertainty. The forum was moderated by Craig Resnick, Vice President at ARC Advisory Group, and featured a panel that included Paul McEllin, Strategic Business Unit Manager, Robotics and Automation at FlexLink Systems; David Nichols, General Manager at Pagès Group North America; Luis Ángel Ramos, Head of Electrical Engineering at HIPERBARIC SAU; and Richard Kirkland, President of LeMatic.
Discussion centered around OEMs describing how they can turn sustainability trends and regulatory requirements into competitive advantages with technologies and core expertise, the value of simulation, emulation, and digital twins in terms of reducing design and commissioning risk; shortening time to market for end users and helping end users to address workforce shortages by building machines that are simple to operate and maintain, and looking for revenue-generating service offerings for predictive and OEM-provided maintenance models.
Drilling into topics such as how does the OEM-end user-supplier relationship look different in the future, David Nichols emphasized how clients are asking OEMs to be responsible for more of the machine maintenance and ongoing operations; Richard Kirkland cited Software as a Service eventually becoming Machine as a Service; Luis Angel Ramos pointed out that as more complex problems need to be addressed, how critical it is to work together, trust one another, and how end users should look for OEMs with core expertise that can be applied in innovative ways; and Paul McEllin discussed seeking visionary clients that understand that OEMs with records of solving problems can look at new industries and applications with a fresh perspective.
Regarding what lessons were learned and advice for others, Richard Kirkland cited the importance to have vision and be prepared and differentiated for the future; Luis Angel Ramos recommended organizing teams to have R&D in each function to help to see business opportunities in emerging markets; David Nichols emphasized the importance of staying close to customers and having local operations, and Paul McEllin cited the importance of standardization as a company globalizes.
Rockwell Automation Fair Key Product Releases
Rockwell Automation introduced a multitude of new solutions at Automation Fair 2022. Some of the new On-Machine solutions include ArmorKinetix distributed servo drives, which are decentralized motion control solutions that provide Kinetix 5700 platform performance in a compact form factor with options for a near-motor drive or an integrated drive-motor solution. Also, ArmorBlock 5000 I/O Distributed I/O blocks with IO-Link technology offer distributed monitoring and control through IO-Link capabilities. These industrially hardened blocks are designed to meet IP66, 67 and 69K applications for harsh environments. Next, Armor PowerFlex drives are a new generation of VFD motor control solutions that provide integrated, near-motor solutions, with integrated gigabit dual-port EtherNet/IP, mounting options, and both hardware and network safety features.
Rockwell Automation’s new FactoryTalk Design Hub is developed to help companies improve their industrial automation design capabilities, using the cloud. Benefits include enhanced collaboration, improved lifecycle management, and on-demand access to cloud-based software. The result is increased design productivity and systems that cost less to build and deploy. FactoryTalk Design Hub adheres to the latest security standards and IT best practices, enabling access to designs on demand from web browsers with up-to-date software that helps users to scale compute capacity to meet project workload demands.
FactoryTalk Optix is a new product addition to the Rockwell Automation visualization portfolio and is the first cloud-enabled HMI product to be launched within the FactoryTalk Design Hub. FactoryTalk Optix Studio enables users to design, test and deploy applications directly from a web browser. Optional cloud-based connectivity enables new collaborative workflows that allow modifications to be made from multiple locations.
FactoryTalk Edge is a new SaaS solution designed for centralized edge management. Accessible from remote locations, FactoryTalk Edge is an infrastructure layer designed to manage edge devices and app deployment from a single pane of glass, with a security posture built on a zero-trust model. The FactoryTalk Edge Gateway edge app is included and helps to contextualize and package industrial data at higher speeds into more flexible information models.
Automation Fair, as well as PSUG and Perspectives, demonstrated the continued evolution of Rockwell Automation to deliver the solutions to the industrial automation challenges of today and tomorrow, addressing the latest challenges and opportunities associated with maintaining competitiveness and operational excellence. With workforce availability and experience being a paramount issue to end users and OEMs, the “making the complex simple” theme is of critical importance to extend to the company’s hardware, software, and solutions, such as low-code/no-code software and reusable software blocks, while still further unlocking the benefits of digital transformation and turn challenges into business opportunities for their customers.
The company is focused on solutions that improve operational efficiency while optimally addressing uncertainties, including supply chain disruptions, economic volatility, energy transition and infrastructure resiliency in the face of climate change. With regard to sustainability and energy and ESG trends, Rockwell Automation has identified the value of leveraging digital transformation initiatives which play a dual role, by helping to improve bottom line operational and financial results while also helping to meet decarbonization and ESG goals.
Automation Fair demonstrated in numerous ways that this “win/win” approach, rather than an “either/or” approach, is a vital near-term focus. In this regard, energy solutions were highlighted as being one of the fastest growing production cost and efficiency improvement drivers, which has brought the need for optimization of energy management systems into much sharper focus, along with related risk mitigation benefits associated with greater responsiveness to regulatory and market demand for reductions in emissions and better utilization of increasingly scarce resources. These initiatives position Rockwell Automation and its customers well for the future, ensuring sustainability and operational resilience for both.
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Keywords: Automation Fair, Process Solutions Users Group, Digital Transformation, AI, ML, Sustainability, Circular Economy, ESG, Solutions Users Group, Lifecycle IQ Services, AR, VR, Autonomous, IT, OT, Cloud, SaaS, Edge, ARC Advisory Group.