Meeting the challenges to come with smarter manufacturing

05 February 2013

At the Rockwell Automation Fair 2012, Keith Nosbusch, chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation, took the opportunity to explain how he believes ‘smart manufacturing’ can help industry to meet future challenges. Suzanne Gill reports.

Keith Nosbusch is chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation.
Keith Nosbusch is chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation.

Keith Nosbusch began his presentation at the Manufacturing Perspectives event, a regular part of the Rockwell Automation Fair, by reiterating the importance of manufacturing to the growth of world economies. He then went on to highlight some of the trends that are driving Rockwell customers today and which are also driving Rockwell's vision for smart manufacturing.

Looking at the changing industrial landscape Nosbusch said: “There is a new generation of consumers in the world who are all seeking a higher standard of living. We are also living in a world where the energy and commodities needed to satisfy these new consumers will be in ever greater demand.

“In the more mature markets, such as the US, I believe that the industrial base is now beginning to show signs of revitalisation, but it is new developments in the domestic energy market that really offer potential to increase our US competiveness and to create a strong energy sector, something that is very important for the ongoing economic development of an economy.”

“People in emerging countries will be eating better, they will be driving more vehicles and purchasing more health, beauty and lifestyle products,” he said. “As these consumers become more affluent their preferences will change. Product lifecycles will become shorter and the need for differentiated products will increase. This demand will also test the supply chains for natural resources including energy, water and minerals. It is clear that greater resource productivity will be needed to meet these demands.”

Added to these pressures the manufacturing industry is facing its own issues – such as an aging workforce. Nosbusch highlighted the need for industry to respond to these challenges and believes that the answer lies with the implementation of innovations such as smarter manufacturing. He said: “Over the past few years Rockwell has worked with its peers, customers and policy makers to define smart manufacturing as a vision for industry. We are involved in the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) and it is from this effort that we now have the definition of smart manufacturing that we see today. Smart manufacturing is a highly connected, knowledge enabled enterprise that is optimised to achieve greater productivity, sustainability and economic performance.”

The SMLC has formulated technology imperatives to carry this vision forward. A continuous improvement model, leveraging the advances in IT infrastructure and application of automation and sensor technology to make manufacturing more highly and tightly integrated in real-time to supply chain and consumers alike. “We believe that the tight integration of information and automation systems is necessary if we are to meet the challenges ahead of us,” said Nosbusch.

Explaining how the industrial community needs to advance to fulfil this smart manufacturing vision, Nosbusch explained the need to include infrastructure. “Foundational elements, such as an education system that supports deployment of advanced information and automation technologies and a transportation system that enables the efficient movement of goods across the supply chain is important,” he said. “It includes an ongoing commitment to the development of talent, producing a workforce that is capable of working with more sophisticated equipment, smarter tools and more complex processes.

“Finally, key technology deployment will also be critical to advancing smart manufacturing. Among these are safe, secure Ethernet; real-time manufacturing intelligence; cloud computing and simulation and sustainability initiatives relating to energy as critical enablers.”

The main enabler for open communications is the use of Ethernet. In another Manufacturing Perspectives presentation, Sujeet Chand, senior vice president and chief technology officer for Rockwell Automation, explained that there now 5.5 million nodes connected to Ethernet in industrial automation and 10 billion nodes connected to the Internet worldwide. “These numbers are expected to triple by 2020,” he said. “The huge increase in nodes will drive down the cost per node resulting in greater adoption. Many of our customers are looking at using Ethernet to drive productivity and optimise their plants and supply networks and to use the network to become more environmentally friendly, whether by managing energy through the supply chain or managing emissions.”

Nosbusch said that the payback from applying smart manufacturing will be the achievement of key manufacturing objectives such as faster time to market, lower cost of ownership, improved asset utilisation and optimisation, and reduced enterprise risk management. “All of these areas can be addressed by applying smarter manufacturing practices leading to a truly optimised plant and supply network,” he explained.

To support the drive to smarter manufacturing, Rockwell continues to evolve its core platforms and continues to invest in its integrated architecture and intelligent motor control core platforms. “We are improving the automation design environment to make designing systems easier and faster,” said Nosbusch. “We are enhancing security and operational capabilities that tie directly to plant and enterprise information systems and we continue to embed more operational intelligence into our platforms and devices to make them easier to maintain and optimise.”

Nosbusch explained how Rockwell's response to the smart manufacturing challenge is based around three solution sets. “Firstly, plant-wide optimisation, a solution powered by our Logix multi-discipline control platform addressing all the automation applications across the production floor - from process, through batch, to discrete. Linking all of these applications are the Factorytalk information solution suites, each focused on a key vertical industry.

“Next, Machine builder performance comes from the application of our scalable information enabled automation products for modern machine design, which helps OEMs to deliver higher performing machines that are ready to plug-and-play in the smart manufacturing environment.

“Finally, sustainable production combines powerful tools such as our intelligent motor control and advanced safety solutions to ensure that production is both safe and efficient.

“All three of these solutions are enabled by an integrated architecture which delivers seamless connectivity across standard, open networks in a secure, yet scalable manner. Individually they are powerful solutions, in combination they are the building blocks for smart manufacture.”

Concluding his presentation, Nosbusch reiterated Rockwell’s commitment to the process industry. He said: “We have become a significant player in process automation to allow us to better serve the needs of our hybrid and heavy industry customers. Our focus on platform scalability and machine design expertise allows OEM customers to build more capable, differentiated machines. Our growing presence in emerging markets ensures that we have the right solutions and expertise across the globe and our core integrated architecture and intelligent motor control platform offer levels of integration that are unique in the market.”

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