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People for process control: Exclusive Rockwell Automation interview

Rockwell Automation takes a three-pronged approach to offering process operations the tools to drive down costs without the fuss, Sarah Falson writes.

Rockwell Automation’s Australia and New Zealand operations are dedicated to offering multi-disciplined, open and safe process control systems.

The company’s local operations contribute in excess of 20 percent of the revenue to the Asia Pacific region, ensuring Australia and New Zealand are key assets in the global portfolio, Rockwell Automation Australia/NZ managing director, Twain Drewett, told PACE.

“We have a substantial and growing market share in Australia and New Zealand, and we regard ourselves as arguably the market leaders in automation. Our ability to grow and form close relationships with our customers stems from a considerable maturity in this market,” he said.

Technology for productivity

Rockwell Automation has continued to report growth despite recent manufacturing dipping to record lows. According to Drewett, automation vendors are in a unique position to “weather the financial storm”.

“Our customers depend on us to help them remove costs from their business, improve efficiencies and to assist them to differentiate their products in the market,” he said.

According to Drewett, manufacturing and process operations require more support than ever in tumultuous financial climates. Various businesses have also downsized their engineering capabilities and must seek technical and engineering support externally. “We work to answer these needs by supplementing our products through a strong services and solutions capability,” Drewett said.

Cost pressures are rife at the moment, with companies requiring a multi-disciplined approach to their process system. Rockwell Automation’s recently-launched PlantPAx offering provides an integrated process, intelligent safety and information solution.

“The benefits include managed controlled shutdown of the process plant during an unsafe event, and associated quick and safe start-up. Furthermore, the information solution provides high quality information to allow manufacturers to make informed business decisions, increase productivity and therefore improve their bottom line,” Drewett said.

Rockwell Automation is also working to provide systems with ‘open’ architectures, providing more flexibility. Drewett says the company had the foresight to acquire businesses specialising in this area, including critical control and safety systems company ICS Triplex, along with Pavilion Technologies, Incuity and ProsCon. Rockwell Automation also partners with OSISoft and Endress+Hauser.

“Businesses are beginning to see the value in controlling their outgoing costs. Rockwell Automation globally has been fortunate in its investment in these areas,” he said.

While the local manufacturing industry has been hit hard, Rockwell Automation is still noting significant opportunities in the infrastructure, power and energy, and water and wastewater industries as the Australian Government pushes more money into these areas as part of its sustainability plan, Drewett said.

People at the forefront

“Our people are our number one internal priority. Motivating them to be successful is where I spend most of my time, outside of visiting and meeting with our customers,” Drewett said.

And while a number of Rockwell Automation customers have temporarily shelved their projects due to the economic downturn, Drewett says that this came as no surprise.

“Our strategy remains a multi-disciplined and open integrated solution. Vendors that lock themselves and their customers in won’t have much scope to look outside at what the market has to offer in the future,” he said.

The push toward open offerings came off the back of Rockwell Automation’s own customer research into the marketplace, which includes ongoing customer experience surveys, an internal sales team, and distributor network.

Engineering the future

Rockwell Automation invests in training programs in conjunction with universities and TAFEs, offering graduate engineers the chance to help execute Rockwell Automation projects first-hand.

Drewett’s message to up-and-coming engineers is simple: “Engineering is a fantastic field to go into, allowing you to make a measurable contribution to the success of industry, with the added benefit of a great deal of job satisfaction,” he said.

“We truly ‘get’ automation and it is through partnering with our customers, distributors and system integrators that we can place customer satisfaction at the core of our business,” he said.

‘Rockwell Automation On Tour’ will continue to travel around Australia and New Zealand — check the website below for more details.

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