Automation Fair 2018 links people, machines, data into a connected future
Renewed commitment to its Connected Enterprise platform defined Rockwell Automation’s 27th Automation Fair held in Philadelphia recently. India is the second most important growth market for the company in the APAC region. Most of the growth could come from pharma firms striving to digitise and secure their data to avoid data integrity concerns
The recently concluded 27th Automation Fair (AF) set the stage for Rockwell Automation (RA) to unveil its new look and brand promise: Expanding Human Possibility. As Blake Moret, Chairman and CEO, RA put it, it’s about “turning data into insights that unlock productivity. The new Rockwell Automation brand emphasises the central role that people play in advanced manufacturing and underscores our focus on ways we maximise performance, advance innovation and drive growth.”
A good example of such a solution was the launch of FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, the first offering integrating technologies from RA and PTC since their strategic partnership this June, when the former made a $1 billion equity investment in the latter for a 8.4 per cent stake. The new suite delivers complete visibility of operations and systems status from one source of information inside the organisation. (See release: http://www.expressbpd.com/pharma/latest-updates/rockwell-automation-and-ptc-collaborate/407129/)
The software suite which enables companies to optimise their operations and enhance productivity by providing decision makers with improved data and insights, has immense applications in the life sciences sector, one of the five focus sectors of RA. The Connected Enterprise Industries Pavilion had a life sciences section, demonstrating how RA solutions combined with other technologies (like the GE Healthcare –Xcellerex XDR bioreactor featured in the booth) allow life sciences organisations to use knowledge-driven operations to improve speed to market, increase visibility into production and better monitor regulatory compliance.
The three day AF, spread over 50 exhibits, hands-on labs and technical sessions also had booths that spotlighted themes like the connected enterprise, smart devices, smart systems, safety and security, data analytics and augmented reality. In addition, there were breakaway sessions on topics like fostering leadership through STEM, as well as sector specific forums designed as a meeting place for RA personnel, their partner network companies a well as current and prospective customers. As in previous editions, clients, vendors, distributors and RA personnel trooped in for deep dives into the latest technologies and solutions from RA and its partner network, all geared towards deepening RA’s commitment to the connected enterprise using data analytics and augmented reality.
Asia Pacific strategy
The Asia Pacific region is clearly a growth driver for the Fortune 500 company which reported fiscal year 2017 global sales at $6.3 billion. For the 12-month period ending September 2018, the Asia Pacific region had a sales growth of 7.7 per cent, just marginally second to the EMEA region (7.8 per cent).Within the Asia Pacific region, China is the biggest market for RA, followed by India. According to the company’s Q4 results for fiscal year 2018 released on November 7, the Asia Pacific region clocked a 9.7 per cent organic growth in the quarter, with China up double digits.
In line with these stats, India is the second most important growth market after China in the APAC region, according to Moret. Company executives indicated that biopharma is the fastest growing segment within life sciences but this is admittedly on a much smaller base than RA’s other focus areas like oil and gas, so its easier to grow double digits,. But as Joe Sousa, President, Asia Pacific, Rockwell Automation pointed out the growth is also because of the changing dynamics of the industry. For e.g., single dose manufacturing has a higher automation intensity and the packaging, which is an area that RA participates heavily in. As facilities are being upgraded or new greenfield facilities are being built, the environmental controls are a strong area for RA.Company officials also revealed that pharma companies are consulting RA beyond the traditional blending and packaging of pharma products, and looking for creating a safe, secure and consistent environment. For instance, pharma companies are approaching RA for their cyber security assessments, to help them refine the cyber security plans.
Spelling out the role of India, John Watts, Regional Marketing Director, Asia Pacific at Rockwell said, “In the Asia Pacific region, after China, India represents the greatest growth potential for RA as a region.” While India was primarily a sales office for RA, the country also contributed to a couple of global functions like a remote engineering centre and a global engineering centre. Approximately 300 engineers across the Noida and Pune sites, support global project execution, with another 200 engineers in the design centre in Bangalore, a part of a network of global design centres, who are involved in new product design, product certification, product life cycle redesign, etc.
The AF did feature a few examples of life sciences companies from India who have deployed automation solutions from RA. For e.g., Piyush Rao, Deputy General Manager, Process Engineering, Fresenius Kabi Oncology made a presentation as part of RA’s Process Solutions User Group meetings held prior to AF. He spoke how his facility implemented a PlantPAx DCS to reduce manual intervention and provide a scalable platform for future expansion and automation. Once in place, they found that not only did it help them meet initial goals, it also helped them improve reliability, safety and quality, and delivered the benefits of centralised control of automated equipment.Similarly, during the Life Sciences Forum, Mumbai-based Manish Kumar Singh, Associate Director – Regional Automation (Asia Pacific Consumer Supply Chain), Consumer Products Division, Johnson & Johnson, spoke on shop floor digitisation using an advanced batch system during the life sciences forum at AF. He pointed out how RA’s solution allowed J&J to make the shop floor more millennial friendly, while meeting business objectives of reducing batch sizes of consumer products.
While life sciences companies in India are at various stages of the learning curve as far as automation is concerned, Chandramouli KL, Manager-Technology and Strategic Alliance at Rockwell Automation India sees increasing interest. According to him, with data integrity becoming an issue with various global regulators, more pharma companies in India have started investments in automation and connected enterprise systems in the recent past, to address these challenges.
Contrasting the life sciences sector to the other four focus areas of RA, Watts commented that life sciences in general is ahead of industries as it is a very regulated sector. “(Life sciences companies in) India are ramping up very fast because they have to meet the regulatory requirements (of various regulators). They realised now that the way to do that is to digitalise and get control of your data. All these companies want to be global brands. If you want to sell globally, you have to have uniform quality and production standards. If the company has a global regulator coming to the plant, and they don’t understand the system, the company could end up spending a lot of time and money getting it approved. So it is in the company’s best interests to use proven systems because a) you spend much less money getting approval and b) you still drive up productivity and efficiency as you deploy.”
Illustrating the comprehensive nature of RA’s solutions, Chandramouli pointed out that RA’s serialisation and track and trace solutions are designed to support a company’s export requirements across countries, making it easy to export to multiple countries with differing serialisation regulations. While company officials could not share the percentage growth they are expecting specifically from the life sciences sector in India, Watts said that with all the focus industries, they want to grow at least one or two times more than the market. Company executives spoke of plans to hire another 150 engineers over the next five years at the Bangalore design centre, taking the total strength to 350, a clear sign that RA would like to see more aggressive growth from the country.