1. What were the first 5 actions you took for your department upon notice about the Covid-19 pandemic?
One of the biggest challengesbrought by Covid19 was the need to work remotely and switch from in personinteractions to a more hybrid or completely virtual setup. Globally, we rapidlytransformed how, when, and where we worked without compromising employee safetyor productivity. This included adjusting all domestic and internationalbusiness travel plans due to global boarder restrictions. Rockwell Automationemploys 23,500 in more than 100 countries worldwide and the safety andwell-being of all our employees is our utmost priority. As we shiftedapproximately 70% of our employees to work from home, we needed to ensure thattelecommuting would not impact business continuity. We prioritized ensuring ouremployees were supported in setting up a conducive home office environmentwithout compromising on network security by providing them with the necessarytechnological tools, including Wi-Fi dongles and desktop computers. Equally, wehad to ensure we continued to support our customers through this time. The nature of manufacturing meant that the immediate question most had was around how they could work with only a small number of workers physically allowed to be present on factory floors. We addressed this immediate need with advanced augmented reality (AR) tools that would help plant workers adapt to new norms and specialists respond in realtime. Customer service, learning, and development did not take a backseat during the lockdowns. Employees were equipped with technology to help them remotely service customers, troubleshoot implementation issues, and continue monitoring ongoing projects through their laptops and even mobile phones, reducing their need to return to our offices.
2. There were many companies that went into limboand were unsure about where to go next, please share with us how did your teamhelp manufacturers in coping with their production and operation?
Rockwell Automation is dedicated to delivering the next generation of smart manufacturing and providing value for customers no matter the circumstances. When COVID-19 struck, we rose to thechallenge of working hand-in-hand with customers to meet their changingbusiness needs, whether it be expedited turnaround times, logistical shortagesor accelerating productivity. During the peak of the pandemic, when completelockdowns were imposed by many governments, we arranged virtual technicaltraining sessions to educate our customers on how to troubleshoot and maintaintheir enterprise tech tools, such as drives, servos, programmable logiccontrollers (PLC), and more. At the same time, our technical support teams werereadily available to help address any questions or issues faced bymanufacturers. We also ran complimentary e-learning courses for our customersto keep their employees up-to date with the latest developments and equip themwith the skills necessary to successfully deploy the tools provided. To helpmanufacturers prepare for the gradual economic reopening, we developed astart-up readiness guide to help our customers adjust and thrive in the newnormal without compromising output quality and workers’ safety. This readinessguide provides a step-by-step walkthrough best practices to help manufacturersrestart operations, as well as sharing scenario mapping for enhancedpreparedness. Topics covered in the guide include guidance on safety checks,inventory mapping and management, test driving dormant equipment,re-establishing communications protocols, and more.
3. Has system integration becomes more crucialduring this time for the factory?
For years now, Rockwell Automation has beendriven by a singular vision of helping our customers realise the significanceof The Connected Enterprise®. In this age of technological advancement,manufacturers need to scale output, incorporate flexibility, improve holisticvisibility, enhance worker productivity, and enable truly intelligentautomation. The pandemic has led many industrial players to realise they needto ramp up their ability to adapt to remote working and decentralisedoperations. The Connected Enterprise® makes this possible by convergingplant-level and enterprise networks to securely connect people, processes, andtechnologies. Better systems integration also calls for the need for bettercybersecurity to protect an organization’s physical, intellectual, and digitalassets. We work with both our customers’ IT and operations teams to establishmultiple layers of protection through a combination of physical, electronic,and procedural safeguards. When developing a control system, our core securityprinciples can be summarised in five points:
•Secure network infrastructure A resilientnetwork security system that uses cloud technology, data analytics, andmobility tools to optimise systems monitoring
•Authentication and policymanagement Minimizing threats from internal resources through enablingcentralised control over user access while allowing for flexibility for remotework.
• Content protection Safeguardingsensitive information such as intellectual property while maintainingproductivity and quality.
• Tamper detection Having astrong coordinated response in place to detect and disable any unwantedactivity, including regular backups of digital assets and the meticulousmonitoring of actions an inventory.
• Robustness Connecting theenterprise under a Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE), a singlesystemarchitecture that allows for centralised monitoring and reporting.
4. Which sector in manufacturing recovers thequickest during this time?
Essential businessessuch as F&B or pharmaceuticals are likely to recover a lot faster than say,aviation. But more importantly, it’s manufacturers who are agile and quick to pivot, that are most likely to bounce back even stronger after a crisis.Regardless of the industry or sector, digital transformation is the true key torecovering and maintaining operations and is what will allow manufacturers toadapt to new ways of working whilstcapitalising on growth opportunities. A moreinterconnected enterprise means better data and analytics, which can improve predictability,adaptability, and long-term decision-making.
5. What challenges do your team face, especiallytraveling is so difficult during this time, and how are you able to diagnosecases for your clients?
Many of our customers have been classified as essentialbusinesses. For industries such as pharmaceutical or medical equipmentmanufacturing, our customers have to balance meeting skyrocketing demand whilststaying compliant with social distancing measures and limits to maximum groupcapacity. One way we’ve managed to continue servicing customers withoutinterruption is by providing complimentary access to our AR program; an advanced simulation tool that can capture manual activities in real-time andenable rapid knowledge transfer, bridging expertise gaps. AR allows remote experts to help onsite personnel perform critical tasks and maintenance, such as those required to recover from unplanned downtime or outages. For example, equipment manufacturer intelligence can be streamed directly to an engineer’s device, ,even as maintenance staff at other plants help with the diagnosis. Mixed reality devices also help frontline employees to safely assemble complex products, by equipping them with real-time production data and instructions as required while performing the task. Simulation tools enable engineers with tasks such as mapping equipment layouts and studying the impact layout changes have on productivity and throughput equipment from anywhere in the world.
6. What do you foresee will be the next industrial trend?
Smart manufacturing is the true gateway to a comprehensive digital transformation. Seamless connectivity is the key here – integrating smart devices will spur better collaboration while data and analytics tools will enable better and faster decision making. The rapid evolution of technology in industrial automation systems requires tighter integration between devices on the plant floor and the rest of the enterprise. This integration requires a secure network infrastructure, smart devices for efficient data collection, and the ability to turn data into actionable information. This integration of control and information across the enterprise enables industrial players to optimize their operations. To summarise, smart manufacturing can be defined as the seamless integration of control and information across the enterprise. The Connected Enterprise® will allow manufacturers to become more flexible, resilient, and better positioned for future growth, by connecting factory floors, facilities, business operations, and the people who run them.