Automation control is no longer the core of machine control

DN Staff

July 19, 1999

4 Min Read
Automation control is no longer the core of machine control

Jordi Andreu was named president, Global Sales and Support, for Rockwell Automation's European Region in December 1998. He is responsible for coordinating all sales and support activities in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa from the company's European headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Prior to this position he was vice president, Global Strategic Sales. Andreu has an Electrical Masters degree from Virgen de la Merced School in Barcelona, Spain, and an Electrical Engineering degree from Polytechnical Engineering School, also in Barcelona.

Jordi Andreu says Rockwell's "Complete Automation" service describes the company's commitment to customer automation needs both technical and commercial by bringing together the best the industry has to offer, from stand-alone products to complete automation solutions.

Design News: Rockwell Software has invested much time and effort into developing PC-based control and MMI architectures. Doesn't this threaten your traditional control product lines?

Andreu: We believe in providing customers with choices. Whatever technology and platform is recommended is application driven. Traditional control solutions are evolving in different directions to respond to different needs. Some of the solutions are based on new control platforms, while other solutions are PC-based. We are committed to continuing to develop solutions to satisfy our customers needs while ensuring backward compatibility to existing installations. Our view of partnership with our customers will drive us to recommend the right solution.

Q: What is the future for the traditional, proprietary control products such as programmable controllers?

A: My view is that the proprietary control products will exist for a long time. Of course, they may not be as we know them today. New open networks and automation platforms will significantly change the current landscape for control products, allowing the customers to select different control products and solutions and integrate them on a common architecture. Flexibility, scalability, and compatibility will be key parameters to define the future of proprietary control products.

Q : Explain how motion control has become a core technology in your OEM business strategy.

A: We have been in the motion business for many years. What is new is the fact that now we have control and motion on a common, integrated platform, ControlLogix. This solution will spearhead our future developments in this industry. Speed and precision requirements are demanding more precise and faster motion-control equipment. Automation control is no longer the core of machine control. Therefore, when we provide solutions to the OEM's needs, motion control is the differentiator.

Q: Rockwell Automation is working hard to have ControlNet included in European Standard EN 50170 and DeviceNet approved with a final vote for EN 50325. Why are you encouraging the adoption of these industrial communication standards when several other European standards already exist?

A: We believe that the existing communication standards do not respond to future automation needs. Within Europe, more than 100 companies have written to express their support to have ControlNet and DeviceNet approved as European Standards. ControlNet and DeviceNet compete with systems such as Profibus every day in the market place and users therefore consider that they deserve the same status. In May of 1997, the UK published ControlNet as DD 241 (Draft for development). The support of 18 major vendors, OEM, and end-user organizations was a major factor in convincing the UK to make ControlNet a standard. Having said this, at the same time that we are promoting these two core networks, we are also providing solutions to interface with many of the other existing networks to protect our customers' investments.

Q : Manufacturing companies talk of incorporating data from their control systems into enterprise-wide networks for better management control. Rockwell Automation supplies gateways to enable this sort of application, but to what extent do you want to become involved with the rapidly expanding market for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software?

A: We are already involved in this growing market. We do supply gateways to enable communication, but we also provide communication software and tools as well as application knowledge and engineering support to allow our customers to achieve their goals when implementing their complete automation solution. This is an area where we see rapidly increasing needs. While we have no plans to provide ERP software, we will be providing products and services to assure that our customer's total integration plans will be successful.

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