Rockwell bringing connected enterprise to life for customers

Rockwell Automation has launched its first Digital Transformation Experience Center in Gurgaon, India. This facility can fully demonstrate the integration of key technology platforms for IT-OT convergence. It will enable the customers to understand the benefits of the Connected Enterprise and the positive impact that it can leave on their businesses. The Center also illustrates how the solutions and services offered are entirely scalable, and can be tailored to suit businesses.

Dataquest met up with Blake D. Moret, Chairman and CEO, Rockwell Automation, and Dilip Sawhney, MD India, Rockwell Automation India Pvt Ltd, on the sidelines. Excerpts:

DQ: Please elaborate on the celebration.

Dilip Sawhney: We have just opened the first Experience Center in Gurgaon, India. We had 18 CEOs from across India. They were representing a very wide cross-section of industries. All of these industries are having a very significant impact on IoT or smart manufacturing.

We have built a mini factory. We will look at how the old and new technologies are solving problems. We have been present in the country for the last 35 years. Our role is to help India achieve its aspiration of becoming a $4-$5 trillion economy. Blake has been very interested in India for a long period of time.”

Blake D. Moret: “It is thrilling to be in India. It’s a very exciting time for the company and for the industry. Particularly, for Rockwell in India! We recently announced an acquisition to expand our engineering capabilities for software delivery. Increasingly, companies that are trying to be more productive through automation! We are adding software and high-value services on top of the basic automation for so many years. Companies seem to be competitive about adding a certain amount of automation to manufacturing and across a very wide variety of industries. People are also taking data and turning them into insights.

DQ: What are you demonstrating at the Experience Center?

Dilip Sawhney: We are trying to demonstrate how flexible manufacturing is implemented! People can come and see the full array of technologies, and how could you integrate those technologies easily. Now, we’re talking about how digital transformation is being implemented right here. The center, here, has a very compact process. You come to a plant control, and you have a remote operations center. From there, customers can visualize their entire enterprise, which may be located across the country. We have an ability to talk about the various use cases across multiple industries. These are the best practices, which have already been implemented.

Blake D. Moret: We are bringing the connected enterprise to life for customers. We are contributing to those goals. We are looking to continue with our double-digit growth.

DQ: What are the fastest-growing verticals for Rockwell?

Blake D. Moret: Life sciences are our fastest-growing major vertical. There is the chemical industry, and some areas of food and beverage, etc. Next, there is infrastructure, water, water-treatment, etc., where Rockwell plays a major role. These are going to be critical for the fast growth of the Indian economy. The other piece is for Rockwell is to continue to expand the global functions that are housed here. We have almost 10% of our worldwide personnel that are located in India across a variety of functions — from software delivery to product development, and the recent acquisition that we just made.”

Dilip Sawhney: Regarding what we actually show, when a customer is interested in what the technology can do for them. Typically, we start with a good description of what it is that the company is trying to accomplish, so that we can prepare for their visit specifically.

Next, what are the main concerns that they want to address with automation? We will start with the references. The most basic form is to talk about where we’ve done this and other similar applications. We also demonstrate what sort of automation can be done with an example of a recent acquisition of a simulation company. Finally, in some cases, they should also be able to remotely monitor the telemetry processes that are a long way away.

DQ: What are you doing in the water and water-treatment spaces?

Dilip Sawhney: Regarding water and water treatment, you have to intervene at various different levels within an industrial installation. You need water for different users. In life sciences, you will need ultra pure water. In a power plant, you need water that is treated to certain specifications. The industrial uses of water are many. You also need to have partnerships with companies that work in the area, so that the availability of water to that specification is easily possible. That’s been the case for a long period of time.

Now, we are finding out about the municipal water supply. That’s an area where it is exceedingly important for any country to put investments into. We’ve been working with partners who are implementing such solutions. These are typically Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC) companies. We enable them to use the appropriate automation technologies to make sure what treatment and distribution is implemented.

You also need to have the relevant energy equipment, and vibration and condition monitoring, to make sure that, if there is to be any shutdown, it can be anticipated well in advance. These are the things that are very much appreciated by the public players. It allows them to assure the availability of water supply to their users.

There is capital asset required in water treatment. Very large and expensive pieces of rotating equipment are required to be monitored remotely. For example, to control the speed, but also to be able to predict when any maintenance might be needed before something bad happens to that pump.

DQ: What are you doing regarding developing the workforce in India?

Dilip Sawhney: One of the key things we are addressing is the workforce availability across a wide variety of industries. Whether it is steel making, producing cars and water treatment, or life sciences, having an engaged workforce, with the skills to be able to thrive in an environment where they’re interacting with advanced technology, is absolutely critical. It is that combination of technology innovation and the expertise that defines the most successful companies. We are providing a lot of training resources by working with the IITs and colleges — in terms of providing the equipment and training, and also providing training on our own. We have close to 1,000 people in India, about 10% of our global workforce.”

There is a lot of value in exploiting the synergy between the industry and the academia. In Delhi, we have participated with IIT Delhi to create a facility that’s known as the Foundation for Smart Manufacturing. It’s a venture that is focused towards allowing the industry in general, particularly, the SMEs, to come in and experience what smart manufacturing is all about! And, how they can implement the appropriate smart manufacturing strategies in their businesses!

We’ve also been engaged within cities. It’s important for us to engage with them to ensure that students are well aware of what is the current state-of-the-art technology. It’s also very important to tap into the knowledge base that exists there, and set up the foundation for smart manufacturing.”

DQ: Is Rockwell also telling people whether there is training going on?

Dilip Sawhney: We bring in people to our briefing center to make them aware of the various technologies. There are scheduled training classes conducted by us. It’s important for people to be feeling confident about the technologies that they are handling. We are innovative and ready.

DQ: What are you doing in the cyber security space?

Blake D. Moret: Cyber security is becoming increasingly important. It’s necessary to take some of the specific steps in the operational technology (OT) to secure the continuous operation of facilities in order to ensure that the intellectual property from those companies isn’t being exfiltrated in any unauthorized way. It also begins with having resilient end devices, secure networks, and making sure that the software is being monitored.

It is one of the fastest-growing businesses that we have in terms of being able to help our customers better define their cyber security practices, and offer strategies for making their operational assets even more resilient.

DQ: What are the trends for Industry 4.0 in 2020?

Blake D. Moret: There is an accelerated adoption of Industry 4.0 concepts. When I came into my role, about three and a half years ago, the state of the industry was: a variety of companies were carrying out pilots to get the concept for applying these new technologies, the software, additional services, and so on. Remote monitoring was a popular application that has moved over the last three years or so, into broader rollouts. Companies have defined benefits of those pilots, and are now trying to scale up to reach the full potential of the benefits from these technologies. India is no different!

There are three major types of use cases. Typically, a company will put up the additional sensors on their plant or the lab, and some additional software, so they can have greater visibility to: what’s actually happening in that facility, what’s actually causing downtime, how fast are things running, and what’s the overall equipment efficiency! The second use case is to prevent the unplanned downtime — either, to prevent it from happening in the first place, or, when it does happen, to decrease the meantime to repair. Nothing drives a return on investment. Especially, reducing unplanned downtime!

Finally, operational productivity and additional efficiency also come in. You should be able to make changes on the fly in real-time, and be able to increase the output of production processes. We are seeing that across a variety of industries. We see food manufacturing, where there are many similar lines around the world. It’s easier to do benchmarking, to be able to identify what are the best lines and why we’re saying it in process industries like oil and gas, where the cost of downtime is so hot.

Remote monitoring, for safety reasons, is quite important. We are also seeing it in life sciences, where the traceability of the processes, the manufacturing, the supply chain, and the storage is very important from an efficiency standpoint, and from a compliance business.

DQ: What is the outlook for the verticals that you target?

Blake D. Moret: Rockwell is aiming for accelerating profitable growth. Life sciences are an extremely important industry with a great combination. It’s a fast-growing market in its own right. We’re growing market share in life sciences. It’s a trend that’s going to continue for a long, long time, as people want to live longer, healthier lives.

Chemical processing is a good industry for us, particularly in India. In general, food and beverages are a good industry as well. Those would be the key areas. In oil and gas, we announced in the beginning of October a joint venture with Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield services company, to create Sensia, the oil and gas industry’s first fully-integrated automation solutions provider.

Rockwell has controlling interest and it’s targeted at helping operators achieve the digital oilfield. We’ve been talking about additional efficiency, targeted towards oil and gas, in particular, upstream oil and gas. We expect that to be a strong industry as well.

Customers are also becoming very conscious of using serialization for their own brand protection. Serialization is a very interesting implementation enabled by these technologies.

DQ: How are you addressing the automotives market?

Blake D. Moret: Automotives is a great industry for Rockwell. It’s a little bit weaker at the moment because of the overall industry dynamics. We’ve had some very important wins in the India with the growing electric vehicle industry. Some of the suppliers are coming from India. We have had some important recent wins in EV manufacturing. It fits very well with our offerings regarding battery production, motor winding, as well as the other traditional aspects of the body and the paint shop. It is a good industry and Rockwell has been present in the automotive industry for years.

Dilip Sawhney:  All of the top Indian automotive manufacturers are Rockwell users. We also support the automotive tyres. There are major tyre producers in India. It is a very important industry for us. We have a very strong participation in industries that are either consumer-facing and the heavier, infrastructure-oriented industries.

DQ: How has the downturn in the market affected you and customers?

Blake D. Moret: The industry has generally been soft. Some forecasts are telling us that the downturn is beginning to sort of just bottom out. The users are starting to see a slight uptick in their production volumes. We continue to invest. Investment does not just mean physical assets! It’s also making investments into domain experts that can go out, and partner along with our customers, to create new solutions to help them solve those problems.

We are also helping to bring the connected enterprise to life for customers. Earlier this year, we dedicated an electric vehicle Innovation Center in Silicon Valley in San Jose. To demonstrate that technology and the acquisition we recently made, the systems integrator is involved in some very important implementations for electric vehicle companies.

The pace is picking up! The primary factor in determining how fast and in an absolute sense of growth is going to be the extent that suppliers like Rockwell can deliver the results in terms of the RoI that the customers are making. It’s not technology, for technology’s sake. It is intended to purchase the technology and the services to help these companies save time and money, and protect their valuable processes. If they get those things, as they expected, we’ll see automation taking the inflection point and growing faster.

Right now, it is the case is to be able to get successful references. That’s what our focus is, on those successful references in different key industries. Those companies will feel good about the investment they have made, what they got from it, and why they work with us.

What we’ve seen in the past is: an increasing number of manufacturers are willing and want to talk about what they’re doing. Their shareholders, and stakeholders, are interested in what they’re doing to increase their productivity. An increasing number of our customers are interested in talking about what they’re doing with us. Now, even in consumer companies, they want to talk about what they’re doing for increasing manufacturing.

DQ: What is the best way to serve the needs of the customers in a specific industry, or, in a specific part of the country?

Dilip Sawhney: In a market like India, you have got to figure out what is the most cost-effective way to be available. We have customers, sometimes, for making sure your products are available, and sometimes, for a full solution.

We have to be more flexible in a market that is not necessarily a home market. We have very well-established distribution network. While that will be necessary going forward, it will not be sufficient. We will be looking at new ways to address the market and the new industries that are becoming important.

Blake D. Moret: Focusing on some of the partners is a combination. We have very strong resources, especially in India, for delivering the full solutions. We also have a good network of systems integrators and other high-value partners who can also deliver. We are happy either way, because, what we like to distinguish ourselves by is: being easy to work with and not demand a set model for customers.

Different industries require different things. Some industries like to work with local systems integrators who have that intimacy and capability. Other companies, such as those in the oil and gas industry, tend to favor the solution being provided by the product manufacturer.

DQ: Are there any sectors where you are not there yet?

Blake D. Moret: Certainly, electric vehicles! We believe that over the next 20 or 30 years, we’ll probably see more electric vehicles on the web, and also internal combustion engines. This is a great spot for us. Also, we are looking at biological and pharmaceuticals. That production again, with a highly flexible, smaller batch type of processes, is very good.

Electronics is yet another one! We’re playing an increasing role in everything’s that’s going to have a chip. A lot of our basic processes are being done in electronic and semiconductor fabrication, and in building control systems. As our systems get additional capabilities, we can play a larger role in the actual manufacturing processes.

We also work with Tesla. We made a public statement few weeks ago that we are working with another US-based company, which makes SUVs and trucks, as well as some equipment and trucks for Amazon.

DQ: Are you working in the driverless cars domain?

Blake D. Moret: We work on the basic car manufacturing, but we don’t have a direct role in the AV algorithms. That would not be a direct area of involvement for us. Today, they have to invest in making good vehicles. They have to be investing in EV.

Not only the brand owners, but the tier suppliers, our training suppliers, and so on, are important to us. We’re successfully engaged in a number of the Indian tier suppliers for the work that’s going on.

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