Anaheim, CA â Rockwell Automation product managers say they are committed to developing products that help engineers climb the learning curve faster. And they're putting their money where their mouth is.
Companies that are designing relatively simple, stand-alone machines in high volumes (hundreds per year) are benefiting from a Rockwell initiative called "Essential Components," which is designed to help engineers quickly come up to speed and implement control functions in their machine designs.
Rockwell representatives were on hand to discuss the program at the Essential Components Booth (#335) here at the Automation Fair.
"Rockwell makes a broad set of components and, frankly, we were looking for a way to make the collection more valuable to our customers," says David Johnson, vice president and general manager of Rockwell Automation Asia Pacific Business Center. "So we researched it and learned that there is value in bundled components from a single supplier when the supply chain is more important than leading edge technology."
He explained that with more complex machines, the emphasis is on performance and integration. With simpler machines that are sold in high volume, designers are not looking for the latest technology: They value proven, extremely reliable products that are easy to buy, install and commission.
To help facilitate that value proposition, Rockwell Automation last year created the Essential Components Program. Akin to a development kit for electronic components, a key feature of the program is the comprehensive set of information (available on a DVD or online) that gives engineers a jump start on their designs with a quick-start guide, pre-written blocks of code for the PLC and HMI programs, preconfigured drive parameter files, panel layout and wiring diagrams, CAD files and even a BOM for the project.
A cornerstone of the Essential Components Program is the MicroLogix 1400 controller, which combines control functions, EtherNet/IP and a built-in LCD â the three core components of a simple machine. Johnson says the device provides a reliable, integrated solution for customers. "They really need to eliminate the risk, and that goes down for them when we've done the integration," he points out.
Rockwell has shipped thousands of units of the MicroLogix 1400 since it was introduced a year ago. And though Johnson says that they do not track conversions, it's likely the Essential Components Program has helped to spur interest and sales.
Some 35,000 users have requested the "Connected Components Building Block DVD" since Rockwell began offering it in May 2008, exceeding even their own expectations, which weren't exactly low.
"I think that there is a bit of âThis is great, I don't have to talk to lots of people at this point in the design process,'" says Johnson. "But engineers also are simply looking for ways to get up to speed more quickly on their own. And, frankly, it benefits us too because our customers are more informed when they pick up the phone to talk to an app engineer."
Rockwell's Connected Components Building Block DVD is available free for anyone who wants it. Though you will need to register, you'll also get periodic updates. Or, you can access the materials here on Rockwell's website.