Rockwell Automation strengthens integrated architecture platform for the long haul in process industries

Rockwell Automation has long been known for its strength in discrete manufacturing control, but recently has increased its focus on the process industries as well. “We think Rockwell Automation is doing an effective job in the process market, and consider them a player in the space—just like ABB, Invensys, and others,” says Craig Resnick, research director for Dedham, Mass.
By Staff August 1, 2007

Rockwell Automation has long been known for its strength in discrete manufacturing control, but recently has increased its focus on the process industries as well.

“We think Rockwell Automation is doing an effective job in the process market, and consider them a player in the space—just like ABB, Invensys, and others,” says Craig Resnick, research director for Dedham, Mass.-based ARC Advisory Group .

Rockwell got its foothold when it took over Honeywell ‘s Plantscape DCS system when Honeywell wanted to get out of that line of business. Rockwell renamed the product ControlLogics and quickly sold several hundred systems—many to existing customers with hybrid production control needs.

“After we sold 400 systems, we said this is a market we should be in,” says Rick Dolezal, Rockwell Automation marketing development manager. “It didn’t meet all of our needs, so in early 2000, we started to develop our own. It came together for us three years ago.”

Rockwell’s new Integrated Architecture for Process platform sold well the first year, followed by 40-percent growth the next—then 46 percent last year, and 16 percent so far this year.

Rick Dolezal
, marketing development manager for Rockwell Automation, says the trend toward unifying control architectures to reduce complexity in managing operations bodes well for Rockwell’s expansion into the process industries.

Key markets include industries with hybrid production processes, both discrete and batch—e.g, food & beverage, pulp & paper, and pharmaceuticals. “We did $382 million last year,” Dolezal says. “We’re currently tenth in world market share, but our goal now is to become sixth with a 10-percent share.”

Dolezal says the trend toward unifying control architectures to reduce complexity in managing operations bodes well for Rockwell.

“With multiple systems, when something goes wrong, you have to figure out which system was responsible,” he says. “Every plant I go into, I always hear the same thing: They will have less people next year to manage things, yet they are being asked to increase throughput with the same equipment. They’re trying to be more efficient with fewer resources.”

The Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture for Process sits as a master control system that easily integrates with other systems and a homogenous mix of equipment underneath.

Renewable Energy Group (REG), Rawlston, Iowa, turned to Rockwell in the 1990s to deliver process control throughout REG’s biofuel production facility. An outgrowth of a farmers’ coop looking to augment services for its members, REG expanded into the business of turnkey plants for others who want to get into the business.

“We had a soybean-crushing facility and were looking for ways to add value,” says Scott Kingergy, process energy manager. “Soy oil was a by-product. We built the first plant in Rawlston, and then started building turnkey plants for customers.”

REG has three plants of its own, and several others under construction for customers—and more in the design stage. It uses ControlLogics in the management and design of all facilities.

“It made sense to stay with one system,” he says. “It means less labor and less hardware, and by less hardware, it also means less panel space, so a smaller footprint.”

In this era of software vendor consolidation, Rockwell is investigating complementary technologies to strengthen its process portfolio.

“Rockwell just acquired ICS Triplex , which makes triple redundant safety systems,” says ARC’s Resnick. “That was bold statement on their part, that they’re in process for the long haul. We expect them to continue to expand their footprint and presence in the industry.”