Lynn Siggins is an Automation and Software Commercial Engineer who’s been working at Rockwell Automation since 1985, when she started out as an apprentice for Allen-Bradley.
She called Rockwell Automation “manufacturing’s best kept secret” and said that the company has a part in the process of making or controlling the making of numerous products that we use in our everyday life, in virtually every industry.
“For example,” said Lynn, “if you walk into a supermarket pretty much every product – food, drink, cosmetics, and toiletries – was manufactured or packaged involving some kind of Rockwell Automation product or solution. And that’s true globally, not just in the UK.”
In addition to consumer products, Rockwell Automation helps water authorities keep water clean, plays a role in the making of steel and has technology and solutions at work producing or processing electricity, petrol, oil, gas, renewable energy, and more besides. The company even controls many theme park rides around the world, as well as other visitor attractions that involve automation, such as Ferris wheels.
“Our job is to help a customer to perform a function”, said Lynn. “Often, they have a problem they need to solve – manufacturing or making a product faster, cheaper, more efficiently - and it could be anything, often a repetitive and large scale function. We sell products and solutions to people who make products but also to people who make machines that make products.”
Rockwell Automation is made of many brands, it traces its history back to Allen-Bradley, which is synonymous with PLC (Programmable Logic Controllers) since creating the original PLC in the 1970’s (now referred to as Process Automation Controllers). Over the years Rockwell Automation has acquired many other brands: EJA and the Guardmaster brand, for example, technologies which underpin the companies’ safety credentials and allow customers to add guarding and safety procedures to their line and prevent injury.
“We’ve acquired computer companies so we have industrial PCs that are robust that will withstand the temperatures and the rigors of the industrial setting”, said Lynn. “We also partner with many companies, like Cisco for example, who we work with for industrial IT networking solutions, and we make products in conjunction with them that allow us to network our products together via open, standard industrial Ethernet.”
Pioneers of the Industrial Internet of Things
Companies like Rockwell Automation are helping to lead with the use of new technologies during a very important time in the industry and the world. These innovative technologies will touch every aspect of our lives directly but also indirectly, as everything around us will be produced, managed and controlled using Internet of Things, the Industrial Internet of Things, augmented and virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
“We’re now going into a new phase of technology, both hardware and software, that involves analytics”, said Lynn. “We’ve just invested in a partnership with PTC, which will enable us to move on from using data to see what has occurred in a machine or a process, but also predict that something is about to happen based on real-time analytics. That relationship with PTC will also allow us to develop that and move further into the really exciting world of digital twin technologies, augmented reality and artificial intelligence.”
According to Lynn, the company’s relationships with the kind of Cisco, Microsoft and others, allows them to connect not just products on a production line, but throughout factories as a whole, factories with one another for multi-site enterprises, and into the supply chain for enhanced relationships with suppliers and management of parts, machines and raw products.
“We’re connecting the enterprise”, said Lynn. “We’re now using technologies, like the cloud for example, to allow us to send data to be analysed, so we can compare every minute element of the production line right through to two different factories. It’s also enabling us to bring data from classically non-Rockwell Automation products, such as Microsoft technologies, SAP, ERP and MES.”
Women in Engineering
Lynn was the second woman engineer at Rockwell Automation UK headquarters when she started 33 years ago (and probably the company’s second woman engineer in Europe). There are two other women on Lynn’s team, including one graduate.
“As a company I think we’re above the average for the number of women in engineering in Europe and in the UK”, said Lynn. “Several of us here are also STEM ambassadors and we go into schools and help teachers understand how STEM technologies can be utilised in primary schools and also high schools.”
In 2017 the company won a Catalyst Award for inclusion and also have several societies and programmes. One of them is a global programme called the RSWE (Rockwell Automation Society of Women Engineers) and another global society is called the PWC (Professional Women’s Council). There are other societies within the company that deal with gender, for example.
“We have a culture of inclusion”, said Lynn, “and we are really focussed on making sure that not just women but people of all race, gender and creed have the same ability to reach their professional and personal potential.”