The coronavirus pandemic has forced companies to sharpen their focus on resilience, agility, and sustainability, the chief of global automation giant Rockwell Automation said.
companies had voiced concerns about issues like low oil prices and the global uncertainty surrounding the trade war between the US and China, but over the past eight months, they “have learned what a truly uncertain and dynamic world situation is.”
“From our customers’ standpoint, resilience, agility, and sustainability had always been important, but I think the pandemic put those things into even sharper focus,” he said.
“When I talk about resilience, that means things like reducing single point of failure in the supply chain. [Thus] If they or we have a supplier who is producing a critical item in one place, we are looking at ways to reduce that risk in our supply chain and our operations.”
Resilience, he continued, also encompasses remote operations, traceability, and in some cases, moving operations around to get closer to the customer through re-shoring, onshoring.
He pointed out that agility means flexibility, giving the example of snack food manufacturers, who found that they needed to package products in smaller packages to get to a price point for consumers, who were suddenly buying much more food at home than ever before.
“Being able to change those SKUs [Stock Keeping Units], those product types were very important. [Rockwell Automation provided] the software to schedule and move closer to an economic order size of being able to produce items almost to order with very little or no change-over time,” said Moret.
Sustainability is even more important now, according to Moret, as customers recognise that they need to be good stewards of resources, whether they be water, air, gas, electricity, steam, material resources, and people.
“We have a collection of applications called eco-industrial, which includes sustainability-related applications like water, mass transit, and renewable energy….”
“In our factories, we have announced a carbon-neutral goal by 2030, which is going to focus on our sites, fleets and add additional sources of renewable energy to our operations.”
He said the pandemic hasn’t resulted in the company revisiting its investment plans.
“We preserved, and in some cases, even increased investments in software-related technology, which includes our recent acquisition of software-as-a-service computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) provider.”
In November 2020, Rockwell Automation had announced that it would acquire Canada-based AI-enabled CMMS company Fiix.
“This is going to be an important foundation not only for the application they are providing today but also for future applications that are best provided in the cloud,” he said.
The company is also focussing on “internal organic investments in new automation software” to give customers the flexibility to continue to simplify the process of automating their processes.
Moret said the pandemic had brought back into sharp focus people’s basic needs such as food, water, and medicine.
He elaborated: “Medicine is going to be very important. Prior to this, people were certainly interested in living longer, healthier lives, but with the fear of the pandemic, I think life sciences is going to be a bigger and bigger part of our business.”
“We are ready to serve life sciences between basic automation products and the software needed for the validation and the traceability in operations to ensure unquestioned quality.”
Moret said food remains Rockwell Automation’s “single largest vertical market.”
“I think what we will see is a little bit of a shift, and we have certainly seen this in the last months, to packaged food that goes to the grocery store and then is cooked at home as opposed to food that is prepared for restaurants.”
He added that one of the factors driving the company’s software business’s rapid growth was the scheduling flexibility sought by food manufacturers “to change rapidly to different packaging sizes.”
Electric vehicles (EV), he said, is also becoming an important focus area for the company.
“The move to EV seems to be accelerating, and I believe that there will be more EVs on the road than gasoline-powered vehicles in the next 20 years…”
Meanwhile, industries like oil and gas and mining aren’t going away, according to Moret.
“Our focus in oil and gas is on efficiency, getting the most from existing wells, not new capacity; mining remains important, and being able to mine safely and securely is an area that we have expertise in.”
Moret said Rockwell Automation is on a mission to take manufacturing to a whole new level by taking its long-standing operational technology know-how and combining it with Information Technology.
“We believe we can be the best company in the world at providing value right at the convergence of IT and industrial operational technology or OT,” he concluded.
(Reporting by Anoop Menon
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