The 31st Rockwell Automation Fair expected over 10,000 industrials from across the world to celebrate a post-COVID return to Chicago. Attendance didn’t disappoint, with 18,000 signing up online and just under 14,000 filling McCormick Place. To say it was a success is an understatement.
Rockwell Automation offered a smorgasbord of options for automation experts, innovation providers, consultants, and end-users to explore. As always, the expo provided one of the largest opportunities to get hands-on with the latest in automation. Rockwell’s offerings were complemented with 122 vendor and strategic partner exhibits spread across a whopping 200,000 square feet.
Blake Moret, Rockwell Automation’s Chairman & CEO, kicked off the event by recognizing the drastic change experienced since the last gathering in 2019. “We saw 20 years of evolution in two because we had to.” COVID has pushed us all out of our comfort zones. One positive change that has come about is the amount of virtual and on-demand opportunities to leverage critical takeaways.
Before jumping in, Rockwell Automation’s overall messaging left me with three high-level takeaways:
Portfolio investments are betting strongly on industrial services, software, and
hardware solutions as managed products.
Rockwell Automation’s messaging is stronger than ever to “become the first-choice transformation partner for manufacturing.”
Partnerships and rigorous M&A activity up the ante on building the ecosystem of solutions manufacturers desire.
Holistic portfolio of industry solutions
Rockwell Automation leadership remains committed to delivering value through a holistic portfolio and strategic partners. Moret shared his perspective on “realizing value through Digital Transformation” as a featured keynote speaker this past October as LNS Research also resumed in-person hosting of our annual executive conference, The IX Event. The message to the many transformation executives in attendance was about how Rockwell Automation will continue to navigate tough market challenges to meet customers' needs.
Automation Fair covered the portfolio strategy improvements and the company’s ability to be a transformation partner. The platform is quite comprehensive across design, operational, maintenance, and improvement solutions. The Connected Enterprise visual shows an impressive range of interconnected offerings to support customers across the value chain.
Industrial clients will find Rockwell Automation’s portfolio drives toward the
connectivity needed. The spectrum of vendor-agnostic hardware, software, and
services solutions managed as products prove leadership is hearing what customers across industry verticals need in the digital age.
I expected to hear a message about how Plex and Fiix solutions were being rationalized and would improve Rockwell’s ability to support small and medium-sized business (SMB) needs. Instead, I got the impression that the solutions were being targeted at large enterprises. This represents a still untapped opportunity to capture the SMB market, which none of the major automation vendors directly target, and further rationalize offerings in IIoT, MOM/MES, APM, and Analytics offerings to more effectively compete in crowded markets.
Evolving Cybersecurity and Sustainability solutions
A connected enterprise brings both great reward and risk. Cybersecurity is more of
a “when” not “if” vulnerability threat with the external or internal potential to wreak havoc. Rockwell Automation has made great strides to include robust cybersecurity solutions within the overall portfolio. Oylo and Avent acquisitions combined with Claroty, Cisco, Dragos, and Microsoft partnerships are building the right domain expertise Rockwell Automation needs to protect the growing portfolio.
Manufacturers have an increased focus on moving toward the Edge, Cloud, and Industrial Analytics. Trends include more remote access than ever. At the heart of the expo floor, the massive cybersecurity booth brought in a steady flow of attendees. The LNS Research team got front-row access to how product and service updates are better equipped to monitor, detect, and neutralize cyber threats.
Progress made in cybersecurity will play a critical role in enabling customer Digital Transformation and Sustainability goals. Rockwell Automation has been keeping an eye on current practices, driving internal wins, and taking simple steps that could lead to leapfrogging competitors. In fact, Sustainability solutions were strategically placed as one of the first booths attendees crossed when entering the expo floor.
Today's portfolio provides solutions for water, waste, energy, and greenhouse gas
emissions. The PTC partnership and ThingWorx incorporated are accelerating customers’ energy management practices with prebuilt templates. Rockwell Automation has a unique opportunity to develop and improve services such as the Sustainability Calculator tool further with internal manufacturing plants across the globe.
Rockwell Automation had several customers on hand sharing success stories. The focus today is heavy on waste, water, and energy, with more carbon management planned in the future. Progress is timely and necessary to meet industrials' needs today challenged with Sustainability/ESG goals and few concrete ways to achieve them. While Rockwell isn’t ahead of the competition today, it’s a start.
Kalypso acquisition is creating return
We saw the acquisition of Kalypso creating a challenge for Rockwell Automation and its customers initially. Adding Kalypso to a sizeable existing services business and a wide array of software services partners in a way that made sense needed a solid strategy. Rockwell Automation used Automation Fair to show the progress made. Customer stories highlighted how Kalypso’s hands-on experience with end-user struggles made choosing Rockwell the right choice for their bottom line.
Customers like Fonterra, a global dairy nutrition co-operative, attested to Rockwell Automation’s ability to deliver end-to-end product management. With Kalypso services, the company was able to design and implement a new integrated OT and IT architecture. Rockwell Automation and their partners identified the right technologies, such as FactoryTalk InnovationSuite™, to deliver real-time information to workers. Data and insights from the shop floor business improvement teams empowered decision-making by identifying the critical improvements needed. Significant value was created through improved OEE, increased production capacity, and reduced waste using insights delivered from the new digital technology. Fonterra’s success so far has led to further scaling expected in the near future.
Choosing which vendor and what solutions will better transform operations isn’t easy. Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) implementation, expansion, and re-design are scary but necessary in today’s digital age. I got the chance to hear from Kalypso transformation consulting and services experts during the Automation Fair. I’ll admit the discussion was refreshingly relatable to the challenges faced by the industry today.
LNS Research sees an opportunity to capitalize on portfolio offerings given the proven ability to approach industrial transformation in a realistic and simplified way. Rockwell Automation leadership’s go-to-market strategy plans to better promote the value of leveraging Kalypso’s deep understanding of industrial needs. No specifics were given, but there were hints of a big expansion and restarted projects.
Knowledge Lens, a digital technology services and solutions provider, was announced as a new acquisition this March. The company’s success in industrial AI, Sustainability, and enterprise-level Digital Transformation shows Rockwell Automation’s strategy to double down and become the first-choice transformation partner for manufacturing.
What does this mean for manufacturers?
Rockwell Automation’s competition is taking note of the progress being made on hot, emerging topics industrials care about. Strategic focus, portfolio investments, key acquisitions, and strong partnerships aim to both preserve and build upon Rockwell’s long-standing reputation as a leading industrial solutions provider.
Manufacturers seeking a transformation partner should be looking at Rockwell Automation for a few reasons:
Key leadership changes have enabled a customer-driven strategy to not only meet but anticipate the needs of industrial clients with a rapidly growing holistic portfolio that demonstrates the ability to stay ahead of industrial trends.
Significant investment has gone into securing the new OT Ecosystem and creating solutions for achieving bold Sustainability/ESG goals.
Rockwell Automation is better positioned than some to understand manufacturing challenges and can accelerate the transformation of partners with repeatable use cases and a focus on navigating market challenges.
Automation Fair provided a glimpse into the stakeholder value achieved through the comprehensive portfolio. A growing set of consulting services can simplify the planning, implementation, and sustainability of a digital thread that delivers meaningful value.
Automation Fair 2022 sessions are still available for viewing here.