Rockwell Automation [NYSE: ROK]: Fuelling an Era of Smart Manufacturing
manufacturingtechnologyinsights

Rockwell Automation [NYSE: ROK]: Fuelling an Era of Smart Manufacturing

Blake D. Moret President & CEO, Rockwell AutomationBlake D. Moret President & CEO 21st century manufacturing environments are robust production houses. Irrespective of the unpredictable pressures of demand patterns and inefficient inventory levels, the shop floors are expected to continuously deliver on time, without failure. In this scenario, the lack of real-time visibility into shop floor will not only induce unwanted delays and disruptions, but also make the overall production processes quite tedious. Given the sheer complexities and levels of transactions involved, Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is the salvager here, playing an influential role in addressing production challenges. With proven automation expertise and long-cultivated domain knowledge, Rockwell Automation [NYSE: ROK] is an MES specialist, enabling manufacturers to address their most pressing hardships and attain competitive advantages with a modern MES.

As an industry veteran as well as a significant figure behind Rockwell Automation’s MES initiatives, Blake Moret, the company’s President and CEO, understands the complexities involved in managing a network of production plants and aims to address them through Rockwell Automation’s visionary approach—The Connected Enterprise. “According to ‘The Connected Enterprise’ philosophy, having smart connected business assets at manufacturing plants is significant because that’s where the data is produced,” says Moret. Sharing this asset information integrated from various touch-points provide actionable insights into how the systems perform, helping manufacturing organizations to optimize their processes.

"Technology keeps evolving and Rockwell Automation is future-proofing technology through The Connected Enterprise"

Rockwell’s ‘The Connected Enterprise’ vision starts with network convergence and requires moving from proprietary standards to open standards; and from disparate IT and OT networks to converged, secure, and collaborative systems like MES. With MES, the company implements a network that links the manufacturer’s business assets, like an ERP system, with real-time, operational, plant-control systems, such as PLCs, while providing enhanced user experiences. This allows all manufacturing processes to become information-driven, which helps trigger actions, execute operations, streamline activities, and much more. Rockwell also enables manufacturers to move their stand-alone databases, legacy customized systems, and spreadsheets into a more integrated and holistic solution, which can effectively help improve business productivity.

Bringing MES Advantages to the Fore

Unlike a planning tool like ERP or MRP II (Manufacturing Resource Planning), the MES executes plans of what, when, and where to produce on a shop floor and connects the plant floor to the corporate offices seamlessly in real-time. The MES not only supports real-time communication within the shops but also with the supplier base that assist in sequencing parts.


With unmatched technology solutions, domain expertise across a broad range of industries, and enduring customer relationships around the world, Rockwell Automation is committed to continue to deliver customers and shareowners value for the years ahead


It helps manufacturers gain deeper insights into their operations, get more from their assets, and be more responsive to customer needs. Rockwell’s MES can be deployed at any level of the manufacturing supply chain, effectively improving the overall visibility and reducing downtime as much as 20 percent. It provides the ability to track running versus idle operations and scheduled versus unscheduled downtime, which can help identify areas that need to be optimized. Also, Rockwell’s MES offers the ability to monitor downtime by plant, shift and flow path, which can help uncover discrepancies across various manufacturing operations.

When quality tests are performed, the company’s MES can collect data from manufacturing equipments and operators who are required to monitor and test the production processes. This can improve first-pass quality and reduce rework, and create electronic records that confirm that the products meet specified quality standards. The MES provides manufacturers with the ability to access, view, and log data from nearly any production point, offering continuous-improvement opportunities. Operators can track key metrics, such as OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), and better monitor material stock flows, technicians can improve uptime by investigating production anomalies and minor machine delays, whereas plant managers can monitor energy consumption.

A Quiver of Best-of-breed Solutions

Rockwell Automation is built on a strong foundation of integrity, and the company’s reputation for quality, reliability and innovation is represented by the brands of products, software and services they carry. The company’s MES product portfolio consists of AutoSuite, CPGSuite, PharmaSuite, FactoryTalk ProductionCentre, and ERP Integration Gateway.

Specifically built for the automotive industry, AutoSuite allows manufacturers to share data and manage key quality issues from the design system through to dealership service maintenance by integrating plant-floor production and ERP systems. It enables automobile manufacturers to integrate their control and business systems across the enterprise and turn production data into actionable information. This scalable solution, when combined with library-based content, offers personalization options that promote faster user adoption and time-to-value.

In addition to this, Rockwell’s FactoryTalk ProductionCentre solution integrates quality management and business analytics with paperless shop floor and repair execution. It improves operational efficiencies while ensuring regulatory compliance and the highest levels of quality.

This total plant solution enables manufacturers to improve quality and global operational productivity, reduce costs of regulatory compliance, accelerate time to market, and share real-time data on quality.

The company’s recent version of FactoryTalk VantagePoint Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence (EMI) v7.0 software adds capabilities to import and configure mobile-based work flows, enabling one-time configuration of a manufacturing intelligence solution. This enables users to access their Logix-based data through a guided work flow to store and view information, which includes installation, configuration, and visualization. Users can browse through the FactoryTalk Directory server to an online controller from any PC or tablet, select the tags from which they aim to collect associated data; and configure scan rates and additional historian parameters.

"According to ‘The Connected Enterprise’ philosophy, having smart connected business assets at manufacturing plants is significant because that’s where the data is produced"

A perfect example of this application can be found with Hillshire Brands, a packaged meat and bakery production owned by Tyson Foods that was lacking visibility and real-time reporting capabilities during production, which led to an increased amount of inedible products and posed potential food safety compliance risks. Rockwell’s FactoryTalk VantagePoint software allowed Hillshire Brands to gather, store, aggregate, correlate, and present production information to operations, so that they could easily identify and correct variances in real-time. With Microsoft surface tablets, Rockwell extended Hillshire’s operator mobility and collaboration between plant-management functions. This, overall helped Hillshire reduce the production of inedible food by half, i.e. from 1.6 to 0.8 percent, resulting in nearly 1 million pounds of food products saved annually.

Automation Continues

Manufacturing companies are ideally positioned to implement modern MES as they transition to advanced materials, incorporate new equipment and more complex processes. Structured and centralized operational flexibility with more consistent quality further justify that an MES investment is ‘worth every penny’ in the highly competitive manufacturing industry.

As envisioned by Rockwell, ‘The Connected Enterprise’ methodology will help manufacturers improve collaboration, drive better decision making, and prevent unscheduled downtime by leveraging state-of-the-art technologies such as MES, and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). “Technology keeps evolving and Rockwell Automation is future-proofing technology through The Connected Enterprise,” explains Moret. The company recognizes that the journey to ‘The Connected Enterprise’ is not without the turbulence of implementation challenges, which includes organizational alignment, competency and talent, technology adoption, data security and privacy, and interoperability standards. Some of these relate to transforming an organization’s structure to be able to derive value from innovation. This often requires some skill sets that organizations do not have yet. “With unmatched technology solutions, domain expertise across a broad range of industries, and enduring customer relationships around the world, Rockwell Automation is committed to continue to deliver customers and shareowners value for the years ahead,” concludes Moret.

- Raj Kumar Gupta
    October 28, 2016