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Rockwell Automation’s distribution strategy is paying off says MD Twain Drewett

Twain Drewett (pictured alongside) was appointed Rockwell Automation managing director for Australia and New Zealand mid 2008. Drewett returned to Melbourne to take up this position after spending nearly three years in Hong Kong as the Rockwell Automation’s Asia Pacific director for its Project and Solutions business.

Drewett had to work through a major restructuring of the Rockwell Automation distribution channels in Australia and New Zealand. The dust appears to have settled and Drewett took some time off at the recent Executive China-Australia Mining Forum in Brisbane to speak exclusively with PACE.

Where do you see the major opportunities in Australia?
We see a growing opportunity in mining – it’s an industry that is really embracing automation in a significant way, striving to achieve efficient, safe and sustainable operations.

We also see opportunities in the food and beverage space – it’s clearly another sector that seems to be moving towards greater automation, keen on removing costs from the business and becoming more information enabled.

The whole concept of taking raw data from the shop floor and transforming it into management information that leaders within an organisation can use to make business decisions continues to rapidly evolve.

What can we expect from Rockwell Automation over the next 12 months in terms of products and services?
Rockwell Automation will be introducing a small PLC that was designed out of our Asia Pacific business centres, to assist our OEMs and machine builders remain competitive. We will continue to see a lot of enhancements in our software capability especially in the process control space.

In addition, we will be expanding our intelligent motor control line significantly. We have several products that are either close to being released to the market or will be released through the next 12 to 18 months.

Finally, our customers are telling us that their operating costs are skyrocketing, so we will be reinforcing our integrated productivity and energy management solutions. We have reduced customer energy costs by 40 per cent in some instances. You’ll see Rockwell Automation continue to move in this area.

Are we going to see more China-made products from Rockwell Automation?
We’re going to see more China-made products and more Asia Pacific made products. A lot of the reason why we build product in certain areas isn’t to export it around the world. It’s to be closer to our customers.

We’ve had unique opportunities to influence the technology that’s coming out on these new PLCs for example. It’s just great to be in a region where we can have technology-influencing discussions and see things actually happen. The result is we actually manufacture products that are tightly aligned to our customer’s needs.

Has your team in Australia contributed to Rockwell Automation globally?
We do pride ourselves on our domain knowledge and our local customers are quite often early adopters. Locally, we regularly execute projects using some of the absolute latest Rockwell Automation technologies, for example our asset management portfolio, our integrated MES suites and our process automation system, PlantPAx.

Our customers often demand the newest and best. Both parties understand that this approach can add complexities because the solutions might not be final. However several blue chip customers in Australia and New Zealand continue to explore this approach with us as a means to further differentiate their offerings and gain a transient competitive advantage.

This means that at times we are able to provide input into our global product organisation, highlighting improvement opportunities tailor-made to our local conditions and customer requirements.

Does the grey market hurt Rockwell Automation?
The grey market is not significant in any way because of the value proposition Rockwell Automation and our distributors – NHP Electrical Engineering Products and Inaco Automation Controls – bring to customers.

Outside of our authorised channel, the product obtained via the so-called ‘grey market’ will typically not be sold with the standard manufacturer’s warranty and full technical support; additionally they could be outdated, obsolete, used or salvaged.

Here’s what concerns our customers – let’s say the fault lies in a ten thousand dollar piece of equipment that’s controlling a large multi million/billion dollar plant, and it fails.

Okay, they saved a few dollars in purchasing the control equipment. But now, who are they going to depend on for support? Our customers understand that it takes an investment to develop a structure that’s able to support them.

Customers with a long term view understand and support this value proposition, which more than negates the temporary benefits of an exchange rate shift.

Has the dust settled after reorganising your distributor channels?
Yes, things have settled nicely, our customers are seeing the benefits and appreciate the new streamlined model.

Rockwell Automation is committed to its distributors, and we are both committed to the success of our customers – our model is win-win or lose-lose.

It’s a differentiator for us in the marketplace. We authorise our distributors to be the supplier of our products and our distributors then provide complementary product ranges, services and support around these to maximise the value proposition to our customers.

Is training handled by the partner or by Rockwell Automation?
If a customer is unable to tell the difference between Rockwell Automation and our distributor, under all situations, I believe we’ve achieved success. If you understand our model, we are looking for amplification while attempting to reduce duplication and redundancy.

Where we’ve got a good core competency, we would ask the distributor to let us do that.
Where they have good core competency, we try not to build that ourselves so we can complement each other. We’re striving for synergy – one plus one equals three.

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