It's been a few weeks since Rockwell's Automation Fair and I wanted to capture my thoughts before too much more time had transpired. I was mainly there for the Process System Users group meeting (PSUG) and it did not disappoint, but before going into the technical review, let me share some pleasantries about the city that is "too busy to hate."
I have been to Atlanta on a number of occasions but never seemed to spend much time walking the downtown area. In past years, many of the distributors chose not to participate in the PSUG portion of the show. This year our distributor sent many employees on Sunday. Most notably, a longtime colleague, Marcia Pohl, is now employed as a process specialist and it seemed appropriate to coordinate flights to spent some time on Sunday with our local distributor. As I would expect of Marcia, she organized a fun contest that centered on answering questions regarding Atlanta beginning in the Olympic Park area. Our team won the contest not unlike the TV adventures where you need to solve riddles by looking at features of sculptures and organizations of flags. In the meantime, you find out some more about Atlanta's history; the CNN tower, the Olympics, and Coca Cola. We then went for pizza and a stop at Atlanta's version of a German Biergarten.
The PSUG event was at record attendance with over 900 participants. John Genovesi's keynote was particularly well delivered with comments on digitization, smart factory initiatives, and Rockwell's "connected enterprise." I managed to do 3 hands-on labs this year in an effort to better understand the new batch features, PlantPAx best practices, and virtualization. The quality of these hands-on experiences is quite good. As compared to past years, the message is more true to the process needs and less worried about trying to defend the use of PLCs in process solutions or covering future trends of displays. Process objects, tag based systems, and control algorithms are rightly at the heart of the message. It is also clear that virtualization is fundamental to the batch and process delivery approach and we very much welcome this direction.
The day finished off with an "invite only" meeting for integrators that gave the group an opportunity to discuss the implications of Rockwell's recent purchase of Maverick. The message is that nothing has changed. Rockwell will continue to pursue strategic accounts and considers the integrator channel pivotal in its deliver of process solutions.
Day 2 was an opportunity to meet up with the Batch team. Listen to "Ask the Expert" sessions, participate in an "invite only" VOC (Voice of the Customer) on batch, and learn about a very promising tool for code generation called Application Code Manager. Again, I am impressed with the focus on practical process issues and a candid assessment by the Rockwell process leadership on their technical weaknesses and plans to address them. It also became clear that Optimation is in a small group of process specialists for Batch and that those of us in the group share a common set of needs.
Tuesday night was election day and regardless of your political affiliation it was a high energy affair. I can say that I watched it on CNN in the shadow of their tower. Since politics is a risky topic, I am going to just end it there.
As I usually do, I spent one day at the Automation Fair. I got a chance to speak with the Microsoft representative at the PLC booth explaining the direction of Microsoft's IoT OS which will be packaged in the new PLC offering. I also met up with several Rockwell employees that I have come to know. I was particularly pleased to have a little time with Mike Hutchings who is now a VP. We started off together selling servos back in 1994.
It was quite a show. I caught up with some past contacts from process and motion days, learned a little about Atlanta, and left reinforced that the process business at Rockwell is heading in a very promising direction.