Automation trends to position manufacturers for recovery: Rockwell CEO

Friday November 20, 2009
Written by Manufacturing AUTOMATION
Despite being uncertain about the shape and pace of the pending economic recovery, Rockwell Automation CEO Keith Nosbusch outlined several emerging manufacturing technology and automation trends that he believes will help position the sector for the global economic recovery. The CEO's remarks came during the opening session of a global forum of industry trade editors and analysts this week in Anaheim California at the 18th annual Automation Fair.   Nosbusch spoke about the transformation of manufacturing from an IT-linked enterprise to an optimized plant and supply network, a transformation enabled by the convergence of control, power, communication and information technologies.   "Each of these technologies comes together to create an optimized plant and supply network that drives greater productivity by doing everything more efficiently," Nosbusch said. "When control, power, communications and information technologies converge, manufacturers can continuously improve operations across the enterprise, throughout the plant and up and down the supply chain."   With plant-wide optimization, manufacturers drive continuous improvement across their enterprise and throughout the plant life cycle from design and commissioning, to operations and through maintenance. With an agile supply network, Nosbusch described how manufacturers can meet market demand for customized products with minimum inventories when they integrate real-time customer demand data with manufacturing processes.   On the topic of sustainable production, Nosbusch described the company's vision for transforming factories from passive energy consumption to active energy management through sensing, communication, control and optimization. The technologies needed to enable active energy management include low-cost embedded energy sensors and integrated control and energy management.   "More advanced metering and trending will help us identify energy-intensive processes and better control and optimize energy on a plant-wide scale," Nosbusch said. "This outlook is exciting, as many new technologies are converging for active energy management in factories that will help our customers significantly reduce energy costs."   Looking at the broader economic picture, Nosbush described the speed at which business conditions deteriorated earlier this year as stunning. But he noted the global GDP has shown recent signs of improvement. Key manufacturing macroeconomic indicators such as the industrial production and capacity utilization, while still at very low levels, appear to have stabilized and the Purchasing Managers Index, a sentiment indicator, has been on a steady march upward. However, Nosbusch said the shape of the recovery still remains uncertain.   Despite economic challenges Nosbusch reported that nearly 8,000 manufacturers, analysts and other professionals representing 60 nations are in Anaheim, "to find ideas here at Automation Fair, the world's largest forum of automation and technology. Our goal is to help make the most of their investments and improve their competitiveness.   "Rockwell Automation is intensely focused on making our customers successful. Today, we have a broad portfolio of products, services and solutions, more domain expertise, enhanced industry knowledge, and a stronger global presence," proclaimed Nosbusch. "Our strong balance sheet provides us the flexibility needed to invest and innovate in this economic cycle without compromising our long-term strategy.   "I strongly believe that we are well positioned in these challenging times to help our customers optimize their plants, and emerge successfully through the difficult economic environment."

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