Rockwell Automation traces its history back 1903 and the formation of the Compression Rheostat Company, founded by Lynde Bradley and Dr. Stanton Allen in Milwaukee, USA, where Rockwell Automation retains its global headquarters. In 1909, the company became Allen-Bradley, a brand still retained by Rockwell Automation and recognised globally within industry.
In 1967 the UK became the first Allen-Bradley base outside of North America and it was acquired in 1985 by Rockwell International, and the business separated from the avionics business (now known as Rockwell Collins) to focus on industrial automation and software when Rockwell Automation was formed in 2002. Since then, Rockwell Automation has continued to acquire various technologies to supplement their offering and trades as several major brand names in the industrial automation marketplace, most significant from the UK perspective are the Guardmaster, Silvertech, LeKtroniX and, most recently, Odos Imaging brands.
“We are in an interesting period for automation”, said Rockwell Automation’s UK Country Director Mark Bottomley. “Our acquisition strategy continues and in the past year we’ve had one of our most interesting investments – PTC – where we invested a billion dollars into a globalsoftware organisation that enables us to offer much more in the augmented and virtual reality area of the Industrial Internet of Things, and Industry 4.0.”
Globally, Rockwell Automation is now in 80 countries with the US being home to the global headquarters. Brussels serves as the EMEA headquarters, and Milton Keynes is the UK headquarters. The company employs more than 23,000 people worldwide, including over 4,500 people in EMEA, and in excess of 850 people in the UK.
“We’ve grown year on year in the past few years in the UK, as well as across the business”, said Mark, “and we see the growth in the marketplace accelerating, so our business will expect to track or more likely beat that.”
Goals and values
According to Mark, One of the company’s goals is to make the world a more sustainable place for the people who live in it, and they do that by enabling their customers to operate in a more productive, efficient and sustainable way.
“We enable our customers to use their expertise more efficiently, to produce less wastefully and therefore to be less harmful to the environment. And we help them to do that in a more energy efficient manner as well”, said Mark. “We do that with great products, but our foundation, and the way we achieve positive change is through our people. We are committed to investing in our people and continue what we’ve always traditionally done, which is to find good people and help them to develop in our organisation.”
Rockwell Automation works with many leading names across its key vertical industries, including oil and gas, food and beverage, life sciences, and automotive. The company also works with a lot of small and medium enterprises, particularly in the UK, some of which are small machine builders and are part of the supply chain for some big companies, or that are doing something innovative that requires advanced automation technology solutions.
The key to the company’s success
Rockwell Automation is the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation. The company has many competitors, but none of them are as big and solely focussed on these solutions.
According to Mark, having the right people and the most advanced technology makes all the difference.
“Our people are our biggest asset and we acquire significant technology when we see a need for it in our marketplace. We also invest a lot in research and development and making sure that not only are the products that we have today current and the best in class, but also that the future of that kind of product is something that we are aware of and working on.”
“We invest a lot of time and money making sure that the people that we have currently are the right ones and that we can give everyone in our organisation the best opportunity to do their best work.”
Rockwell Automation puts a strong emphasis on ethics and diversity and has won the Ethisphere Institute awards for the World’s Most Ethical Company for the last ten years.
“I often get asked what it’s like to work for Rockwell Automation”, said Mark, “and it’s about being part of the culture – we want to develop people and we want to do that in the right way. We expect everyone in our organisation to be given the right opportunities. We expect our customers to value that and believe they do, and we reward people internally for doing the right thing. So although we are a commercial organisation and here to make a profit, we want to make a profit the right way.”
Training and development
The organisation offers employees individual development programs and invests regularly in group training to bring staff up to speed on the latest technology or on their personal development: leadership and management skills, presentation skills, sales skills and other relevant attributes.
“We have many people in the local organisation that are doing third level or higher qualifications for their personal development”, said Mark, “and I like to think that we do that for the individual as much as for the good of the company. We have development conversations with individuals and we talk about what they want to do and where they want to be successful, not only where they think they might fit into Rockwell Automation.”
According to Mark, one of his key roles in the UK is to make sure they take their responsibility in the community as a technology and engineering company seriously.
“We are working locally with organisations like Primary Engineer, and we have a number of STEM ambassadors in the UK. Globally we work with programmes like FIRST Lego League, in which we’ve invested millions of dollars over the last few years because there are too few people in that generation of people who are taking up science, technology, engineering and maths, and we need to do our part.”
“One of the great things in our organisation is we are supported from the top down, so when we did the work with Primary Engineer we had more people volunteer from my organisation locally that I could fit in the room that we had to host the initial kick-off meeting! So hopefully next year will be able to do an even bigger schools programme.”
Management and leadership skills
Rockwell Automation has very well developed management and leadership programmes and puts employees through varying qualifications, depending on their level, skills set and experience. Some of those are internal, some address personal awareness and the early stages of people management, and some are very high level, third-party, one-on-one delivered, coaching and mentoring to help some employees with their management career.
“One of the things we are very keen on doing is making sure we develop individuals according to their best interests and aptitude”, said Mark. “We also offer various career paths for our people in our relatively flat organisation, including a professional career path or a managerial career path.”
Innovation and the 4IR
Mark believes innovation plays a fundamental part at Rockwell Automation. They are the biggest company in the world dedicated to industrial automation and that cannot be accomplished without having innovation as a core element of what you do.
“Our iTrak and the Magnemotion machines [see photo below] are both relatively recent acquisitions and are an innovative area of the marketplace in terms of Independent Cart Technology”, said Mark. “Five years ago it didn’t exist in an industrialised situation and we saw the need to invest in two companies, who are both market leaders in slightly different arenas. We expect to be in a place where our customers can come to us because they understand that the innovation that’s going on in their marketplace is something we will know a lot about and that we will be able to provide what they require.”
Two recent investments Rockwell Automation has completed is the acquisition of Odos Imaging from Edinburgh, as well as a significant investment into PTC, one of the largest in Rockwell Automation history ($1B). This deal will bring the company into a whole new sphere from an innovation perspective. Mark said the organisation believes that this new technology (3D Time-of-Flight technology for sensing and safety applications) is very exciting in terms of how it can be used to improve efficiency for customers as they continue their journey into Connected Enterprise and the fourth industrial revolution.