2017 Automation Fair Event Supports Houston Recovery

2017 Automation Fair Event In Review

Attendees learned about the latest industrial automation solutions, trends and smart manufacturing developments, while also helping support Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

By Amanda Joshi, Managing Editor

More than 10,000 representatives from manufacturers, OEMs, industry analyst groups, media and Rockwell Automation member companies in its PartnerNetwork™ program from around the world descended into the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston Nov. 15-16 to see the leading technology and solutions in industrial automation. The Automation Fair® event offered attendees the opportunity to share information about the latest control system network infrastructure using IP-based networks such as EtherNet/IP™, safety, power and information technologies that support The Connected Enterprise.

Attendees also visited more than 140 exhibits displaying the latest automation products and solutions from Rockwell Automation and its PartnerNetwork program members, including Encompass™ Product Partners, Solution Partners (system integrators), OEM Partners and Strategic Alliance Partners.

Visitors also had free access to automated control and information solutions, and advanced automation technologies from the industry’s best suppliers. Rockwell Automation designed the event to help improve customers’ innovation, productivity and collaboration through educational offerings that included nine industry forums, 93 technical sessions and 19 hands-on labs about the latest control, power and information technologies.

In addition, prior to the Automation Fair® event, the popular Process Solutions User Group (PSUG) took place Nov. 13-14.

"It was one of the single most rewarding things I’ve had the opportunity to do in my career.” — Blake Moret, Chairman and CEO, Rockwell Automation

Lending a Helping Hand

At the 2017 Automation Fair® event Automation Perspectives global media forum, Rockwell Automation chairman and CEO Blake Moret kicked off the event by first sharing with journalists and industry analysts the company’s efforts to help Houston after flooding from Hurricane Harvey ravaged the area.

“This week is about showcasing technologies and information that help make industrial companies and their people more productive,” he said. “We are also taking the opportunity to show our support for the people of Houston and surrounding communities as they continue to rebuild and recover from the recent hurricanes.

In the aftermath of the storm, the company deployed disaster recovery teams to help get customers up and running,” he shared. For example, when flooding submerged the electric motor drives that pumped neighboring Beaumont’s drinking water, the company delivered new drives necessary to restore water service within 24 hours. 

Rockwell Automation also partnered with the United Way of Houston to provide 40 tons of nonperishable meal kits for Houston-area families to enjoy at Thanksgiving. With the help of show attendees, 8,000 care packages were packed and readied for distribution to families and seniors throughout the Houston area.

In conjunction to kit-building efforts, Rockwell Automation offered #HoustonStrong t-shirts for attendees to purchase for $20, with all proceeds assisting relief efforts.


Turning toward the company’s vision for the future, Moret noted the industry’s continued adaptation of The Connected Enterprise and smart manufacturing, but also stressed the importance of finding solutions to workforce shortages.

“Even though we’re an automation company, people remain our most important asset,” explained Moret. “Workforce development is the existential threat to the future of manufacturing,” he explained, citing growing shortages of qualified talent in many corners of the industrial market. To address this issue, Rockwell Automation and Milwaukee-based ManpowerGroup, a provider of workforce solutions, partnered to create the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing, a program designed to “upskill” U.S. military veterans.

The program builds on the experience of Rockwell Automation in automation training. “We know the curriculum and skills that are necessary,” said Moret. “Between 2003 and 2019, it’s estimated that 4.3 million veterans will leave the service, and 65% of them will need help finding employment outside the military. As we were working with the Department of Defense, we realized so many of the core work skills are already embodied in those veterans. Many of those skills could translate to the manufacturing environment.”

The program’s goal is to graduate 1,000 veterans per year by 2019. Over the past couple of decades, Rockwell Automation has graduated more than 7,000 engineers from its internal engineering-in-training program.

“We thought we could take this show on the road and offer it to returning veterans,” Moret explained. “Every veteran that goes through the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing is guaranteed a job. I was at the graduation ceremony of the first class of 14 last week in Cleveland. It was one of the single most rewarding things I’ve had the opportunity to do in my career,” he remarked.

You can read more of Moret’s comments here.

PSUG Aids Modernization Efforts

At the Rockwell Automation Process Solutions Users Group (PSUG), more than 860 visitors from 29 nations and 22 industry segments gathered to learn about new technologies, process solutions and their peers’ and leading industry experts’ best practices in diverse process industries.

Process professionals were invited to 27 technical sessions, more than 25 customer application sessions, and five “Ask the Expert” sessions featuring results using the PlantPAx® distributed control system (DCS).

"Why are digitalization initiatives like The Connected Enterprise so important? It's because they help make users more competitive and profitable. About $4 trillion in value will be driven by manufacturing IIoT by 2025, and 40% in operating income improvement will come from digital transformations," said John Genovesi, vice president and general manager of the Rockwell Automation Information Software and Process Business to PSUG attendees.

"The Connected Enterprise and the modern distributed control system (DCS) are all about how Rockwell Automation is helping its customers realize value from digitalization," added Jim Winter, director, Global Process Business, Rockwell Automation.

"The Connected Enterprise is enhanced by the IIoT to deliver transformative value through productivity and global competitiveness. For users, this means faster time to market, reduced total cost of ownership, better asset utilization and improved enterprise risk management," he explained.

To pull further ahead in the modern DCS quest, Rockwell Automation plans to launch PlantPAx  v. 4.5 in mid-2018. Getting a sneak peak, PSUG attendees learned the new DCS will include more than 50 extended capabilities and performance enhancements for users, including pre-built network architectures, secure cloud access, ACP thin client integration and added IEC/ISA 62443 and role-based security functions.

Genovesi added that FactoryTalk's common architecture and software layer are likewise being enhanced, so users can go beyond controlling their assets to collecting far more data than they have in the past. Smart assets such as sensors and actuators, intelligent motor controls, controllers, mobile devices and displays, analytics and equipment and remote assets report to FactoryTalk's scalable execution systems, scalable analytics, mobility and collaboration tools, and connected services.

The FactoryTalk Analytics Platform brings in data from edge devices, mashes data into similar formats, and applies advanced analytics algorithms. "We start by asking users what their production problem are, and then we engage and help them build a roadmap," added Genovesi. "Our approach to the IIoT is just another way of capturing real-time data without interrupting operations."

Read more on the company’s Connected Enterprise efforts.

John Genovesi of Rockwell Automation explains how the company is helping its customers capture their share of the $4 trillion digitalization opportunity.

PSUG also provided attendees the opportunity to learn from companies about their process improvements. For instance, Asa Ange, engineering supervisor, Champion Technology Services, shared Phillips 66’s journey to PlantPAx. The project involved upgrading Phillips 66’s automation system and communication network at its finish process terminal in Pasadena, Texas, which included the truck rack and pipelines for 21 tanks storing 3.2 million barrels of gasoline, diesel, biodiesel and ethanol.

“We started by documenting the network. We took pictures of the insides of the cabinets and figured out every wire,” Ange said. For every I/O, Champion determined wire color, location, purpose and human-machine interface (HMI) usage. We made a message map of all the data entering and leaving each controller; on average, each controller sent data to three others. The cause-and-effect diagram took up a 10-ft. section of wall,” Ange recalled.

Read more on the project’s outcome.

iBio, College Station, Texas, explained how it converts tobacco plants into bioreactors. The iBio plant manufacturing process, which is automated largely by Rockwell Automation control systems, involves three steps — production, infiltration and downstream purification in autonomous cleanrooms. The process was developed as a result of a challenge to design a commercial biotherapeutics facility using a plant-made pharmaceutical platform to help stop potential pandemics. Learn more on this case study.

Desmet Ballestra, a Belgium-based designer and builder of equipment and facilities for vegetable oils, fats and oleochemicals producers, implemented PlantPAx to simplify and streamline libraries of HMI and process objects, showcasing the advantages of using a DCS approach to develop logic and operator displays. Read more.

Attendees learn about the latest industrial automation technology at the 2017 Automation Fair event in Houston, Nov. 15-16.

Partners Help Drive Connectivity

The 26th Automation Fair® event offered plenty of connectivity and industrial automation solutions from the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork. Encompass Product Partners, OEM Partners and Solution Partners showcased many products and hundreds of solutions to enthusiastic show attendees. Here are few popular technologies showcased at the event.

Encompass Product Partner HMS Industrial Networks displayed its new eWON Flexy 205 IIoT gateway and remote access router for machine builders and its eCatcher mobile app. In addition to VPN remote access with eWON Talk2M remote connectivity services, the Flexy 205 allows alarm notifications, machine data reading, and historical logging to monitor and collect vital key performance indicators (KPIs) for analysis and predictive maintenance.

eWON eCatcher is the software used to establish a remote connection via an eWON router to the machine. The mobile version of this access solution is available for free for iOS and Android. eCatcher Mobile opens a secure tunnel to the remote machinery through the Talk2M cloud, allowing users to run any device manufacturers’ app and connect, just as if they were on site.

“The eCatcher Mobile app is ideal for remote access, maintenance and monitoring of your devices wherever you are,” said Marie-Luce Bodineau, eWON Product Manager at HMS. “We see that more and more users are starting to utilize the native apps from HMI and PLC vendors, and with the eCatcher mobile we offer them a way to operate remotely in an easy and secure way.”

The Fluke 729 automatic pressure calibrator from Encompass Product Partner Fluke Corp. also garnered attention from Automation Fair attendees. The instrument sources pressure and records results automatically, eliminating the need for multiple tools, improving repeatability and simplifying the calibration process

Technicians simply input a target pressure and the calibrator automatically pumps to the desired set-point while the internal fine adjustment control stabilizes the pressure at the requested value, delivering more accurate results and speeding the calibration process.

Rockwell Automation revealed Project Scio, which offers new capabilities to reduce hurdles to unleashing information. Project Scio opens access to ad-hoc analytics and performs advanced analysis by pulling structured and unstructured data from virtually any existing source in the enterprise. It also can intelligently fuse related data, delivering analytics in intuitive dashboards, called storyboards, that users can share and view. Users then have the ability to perform self-serve drill downs to make better decisions, dramatically reducing the time to value.

“Providing analytics at all levels of the enterprise — on the edge, on-premises or in the cloud — helps users have the ability to gain insights not possible before,” said Genovesi. “When users gain the ability to fuse multiple data sources and add machine learning, their systems could become more predictive and intelligent. Scio puts analytics to work for everyone.”

Trinidad Cruz explains how Prime Controls, a Rockwell Automation System integrator, helped a city's wastewater treatment plants upgrade its aging control systems.

Water Wastewater Forum: The Drive to Modernize

Water and wastewater treatment plants rank among the facilities most likely to benefit from control system modernization, and one way to maximize that benefit is to improve connectivity. By integrating mobility, equipment data and energy monitoring, a connected plant can optimize manpower, maintenance and efficiency, with the potential for rapid ROI and significant long-term cost reductions.

At the 2017 Automation Fair® event’s Water and Wastewater Industry Forum Kevin Hurdle, industry manager, water and wastewater, Rockwell Automation, described today’s business drivers for connected water treatment plants:

  • Implementing smart water solutions would save the industry $7.1-12.5 billion.
  • More than half of utilities have not assessed the vulnerability and resilience of key assets with respect to cybersecurity.
  • By 2050, 86% of developed countries (64% of developing) will be urbanized, increasing demand for smarter, more sustainable facilities.
  • Current annual cost of unscheduled downtime is $20 billion.
  • Nearly three-fourths of North American plants are more than 20 years old.
  • $65 billion of the global installed base of automation systems is reaching end of life.

For these reasons, the digital plant has become a business imperative, Hurdle said. “New technology is not just the latest and greatest, it helps you out in these other areas.”

Trinidad Cruz, regional account manager for Prime Controls, a Rockwell Automation System Integrator based near Dallas in Lewisville, Texas, walked attendees through the automation modernization of wastewater treatment plants in El Paso, Texas, to PlantPAx modern DCS platform from Rockwell Automation.

El Paso Water Utilities wastewater treatment plants were facing lost production due to aging control systems. Prime Controls leveraged a PlantPAx DCS to provide a path forward that created a standardized program, reduced downtime and lowered total cost of ownership through modernization and optimization. Read more about the project.


"We're always looking for new ways to keep going and continue production on these older wells.” — Charlie Kettner, PLC programmer and control system manager, ARC Resources.

Oil & Gas Industry Forum: How to Simplify Operations

End users presenting at the Oil & Gas Industry Forum at the Automation Fair® event detailed a variety of ways to simplify and streamline operations to gain some much-needed profit out of applications and processes.

"The crash in prices during and after 2014 resulted in dramatic reductions in capital and operating expenditures of 70-80%," said Luis Gamboa, heavy industries market development manager, Rockwell Automation. "However, owner/operators have to keep running, and so they've had to find ways to greatly increase efficiency, especially during the past three years. This can be done with automation, optimization and centralized operations."

For instance, instead of pumping indiscriminately as they had in the past, ARC Resources reported it recently implemented the Rockwell Automation ConnectedProduction™ well manager solution, which determines when and for how long to employ artificial lift at its multi-well pads in Alberta and northeast British Columbia. The solution is designed to maintain efficient production even from aging and otherwise depleted assets.

"We're always looking for new ways to keep going and continue production on these older wells," said Charlie Kettner, PLC programmer and control system manager, ARC Resources. "It was also important for us to automate because we can have up to 32 wells per pad with different combinations of horizontal and directional drilling, and are subject to different pressures and other forces. We wanted one controller to handle all these scalable systems, but we had problems with our older controls. They could measure gases and handle one or two wells, but they weren't so good when we went to eight or 13 wells per pad."

ConnectedProduction well manager program allowed ARC to increase its I/O point count, expand its SCADA system, and adopt Rockwell Automation ControlLogix® PLCs and support modules from Encompass™ Product Partner ProSoft Technology. Read more on ARC Resources’ implementation.


The Journal From Rockwell Automation and Our PartnerNetwork™ is published by Putman Media, Inc.


Check Out the February Issue

The JOURNAL from Rockwell Automation and Our PartnerNetwork™ is a bimonthly magazine, published by Putman Media, Inc., designed to educate engineers about leading-edge industrial automation methods, trends and technologies.