Rockwell shows good results in 2012

In November, at the start of the week of their 2012 Automation Fair event in Philadelphia, Keith Nosbuch, chairman and ceo of Rockwell Automation, announced record sales and earnings for FY 2012: he summarized this by saying “We delivered solid results in a challenging environment this year.”

Sales at $6259m were up 4% over the previous year, and organic sales growth was 6%: income at $5.13 per share increased 7%. Nosbuch also commented “While growth rates continued to moderate [in Q4] due to a difficult economic environment, once again every region delivered organic growth. Operating margin expanded by one point [to 18.1%] while we continued to invest for growth. Our EMEA region had a great year with 6% organic growth in the face of a recession.”

The EMEA comment is significant, particularly for US investors worried about Europe, since it contributes 20% of the Rockwell group turnover: good results there were important. Geographically Asia-Pacific is 15% of sales and Latin America 8%, with the rest from the USA and Canada. Obviously the investor community liked what he said, with the share price rising 10% to $78 immediately, and then continuing up to $84 by the calendar year end.

Commenting on the outlook for Rockwell, Nosbusch said, “The sluggish global economy and a weaker solutions backlog are headwinds as we enter fiscal 2013. While we do expect sales to increase next year, the growth will likely be more weighted to the second half. While we can’t control the economy, I believe we are well-positioned to outgrow the market with our innovative technology, domain expertise and thought leadership.”

21st Automation Fair

Rockwell’s 21st annual Automation Fair this year was attended by over 9200 people, attending the seminars, training sessions and industry fora: there were more than 125 exhibitors in the associated exhibition. Separate User Group meetings were held to focus on process solutions and safety system engineering. Around 30 PlantPAx users shared their experience in applying PlantPAx in their automation systems: a major topic discussed was the increasing emergence and use of virtualization technologies in the process industries.

A separate global forum for trade media and analysts, entitled ‘Manufacturing Perspectives’, explored the leading news topics and current trends in manufacturing technology and automation.  A major discussion point covered how cloud solutions can enable flexible manufacturing without compromising security; and explored the potential effects of mobility on manufacturing technologies and practices.

Blake Moret, svp for control products and solutions, presented an analysis showing where the current Rockwell cloud computing users had applied the technology to best effect. The major benefits have been found in services and process analysis tasks that are not real-time requirements, and typically predictive maintenance and energy management services have used cloud computing services effectively. Other systems that offer good potential include operations intelligence, and monitoring systems for environmental or health and safety studies. Rockwell suggest that local control systems will feed production data to cloud services for further analytics and operations intelligence.

This article first appeared in the Industrial Automation INSIDER newsletter for January 2013

CNRL oil and gas resources SCADA system uses pcVue

Canadian Natural Resources needed a better way to manage the process control and monitoring of its oil and natural gas operations, comprising 300 gathering stations, 800 compressor stations, and 150 gas processing facilities. CNRL´s SCADA specialist, Kurtis Jackson, spearheaded an automation project to replace the FactoryLink SCADA systems with pcVue SCADA and FrontVue solutions from ARC Informatique. CNRL has numerous independent automation systems of various brands, including GE and Allen-Bradley PLCs, plus Fisher and Bristol Babcock RTUs: Jackson wanted to centralize and achieve consistency by integrating as many of these automation systems as possible. CNRL started the replacement process by migration of their FactoryLink SCADA to pcVue using the Smart Generator, a pcVue tool that automatically converted a very high proportion (in fact 60-80%) of their existing applications to pcVue, while ensuring maximum compatibility and security. This saved a significant amount of time with not having to reconfigure all the applications, and it meant that CNRL did not have to retrain the users. In addition, CNRL used IMSCADA, a multiprotocol measurement and communication software from CTH Systems, which allowed the wells equipped with different automation devices, such as RTUs or pump on/off controllers, to talk over a single radio channel in order to bring the data back to pcVue SCADA.

This article was first published in the INSIDER newsletter for January 2013.