By Mike Bacidore, Editor-in-Chief, Control Global as published in Automation Fair 2019 Special Report
"Lifecycle Services are not just about your industrial automation assets," said Rockwell Automation's Rob Ninker. "We think about the lifecycle of the plant or the project, which encompass much more than just the automation aspects."
Rob Ninker is business director, North America, customer support & maintenance, and guided your author on a tour of the Lifecycle Services booth at Automation Fair, held at McCormick Place in Chicago.
Whether a company needs to design, build, sustain or improve operations, the Lifecycle Services group at Rockwell Automation provides support every step of the way, Ninker said, enumerating the variety of ways it can help.
For example, since companies need to modernize systems to remain sustainable, automation contractors can turn to the Lifecycle Services group for project management services needed to help lead a digital transformation. Additionally, retirement and attrition have created a workforce skills gap that can be quelled by the group’s e-learning courses, augmented-reality based remote support and installed base evaluations. And because the need for analytics and related support can come at any time, the group can also help to make equipment more productive and secure through a digitally enabled lifecycle.
One of the key strengths of Rockwell Automation’s lifecycle services portfolio is its scalability, whether the customer is a mom-and-pop production facility or a global, multimillion-dollar enterprise. “We have different types of consulting services that can help when designing a new plant or working through a digital transformation,” said Ninker.
“There are professional services we provide to help package and modernize equipment when we act as a main automation contractor,” Ninker said. “We have connected services focused on the OT [operational technology] space to help a customer sustain growth, whether managing a single network or a full OT cybersecurity program rollout across the globe. We also offer traditional services such as on-site maintenance and support or remote technical support and training. All of these services are driven by data and analytics.”
A foundational element in increasing productivity and reducing risk is understanding what assets you have in your facility or across your enterprise.
“We’ve had a service offering, Installed Base Evaluation, for years,” said Ninker. “This involves collecting detailed information on Rockwell Automation and third-party hardware to provide recommendations that help you to better manage your assets and reduce obsolescence risk.
“Further, My Equipment is the first of many digitally enabled offerings,” Ninker said. Some key benefits of My Equipment include accessibility, convenience, reduced costs and reduced obsolescence risk. “Our goal is to know our customers’ plants even better than they do and provide the right information at the right place and right time,” explained Ninker. “This platform is the foundational element to enable that level of service.”
Network and visualization
A robust, secure and scalable network infrastructure can help increase productivity and, more importantly, reduce risk. “We provide services that meet you where you are: managed services that help you to monitor, administer and maintain your network and virtualization infrastructure,” said Ninker.
Global managed services are executed in a follow-the-sun model that ensures 24-hour support. “This year we’re introducing a new addition to our Industrial Data Center (IDC), the Versa Virtual, which comes fully configured with remote monitoring and administration attached,” explained Ninker. “It doesn’t require special IT or OT skills to set up, and it’s a perfect platform for applications such as InnovationSuite and PlantPAx.”
Versa Virtual and the family of IDCs allow Rockwell Automation to proactively support and manage all phases of the lifecycle.
IT and OT bring different cybersecurity challenges that continue to converge and migrate, requiring a strategy that is both technology-enabled and scalable.
“Many of our customers don’t even know where to start when it comes to cyber hygiene,” said Ninker. “So we’ve launched our Security Posture Survey, which provides detailed information to assess and prioritize security risks through asset inventory, baseline network traffic and detection abnormalities.”
The next stage includes Threat Detection Services, which Rockwell Automation formally launched to provide ongoing visibility of cyber risks in plants or across enterprises.
“In partnership with Claroty, we created a world-class service that combines our global domain expertise around OT, networks and cybersecurity with Claroty’s technology to ensure you can successfully deploy and manage your threat-detection platform,” said Ninker.
Analytics in the spotlight
“Our partnership with PTC has provided some exciting ways to modernize support and help improve operations through professional services,” added Ninker. “We’re innovating and modernizing the way we provide technical support to our customers by leveraging PTC’s Vuforia augmented-reality (AR) platform. Our cloud-based AR library already brings a modern approach to repairing and maintaining Allen-Bradley hardware.” And with a TechConnect Support contract, a mobile device and the Vuforia View application, customers can readily launch an AR experience related to the task they’re performing and be walked through the proper steps.