Water Online Radio: Rockwell Automation Keeps Things Under Control
Tom Schaefer of Rockwell Automation talks about the importance of a process control strategy in water and wastewater operations, as well as the expanded capabilities Rockwell offers through trusted collaborations throughout the industry.
Todd Schnick: Good morning and welcome back to Water Online Radio. Coming to you live from WEFTEC here in New Orleans, Louisiana. I am Todd Schnick, joined by my friend and colleague, Todd Youngblood. Todd, I have been looking forward to this guy. We saw him two years ago at WEFTEC.
Todd Schnick: I know. When Rockwell is here. It is always fun.
Todd Youngblood: Outstanding. Yeah. I am looking forward to say hello to Tom Schaefer, who is the Global Industry Manager for Rockwell Automation and their water/wastewater. Welcome back to the show, Tom.
Tom: Thanks. Great to be here and thanks for having me.
Todd Schnick: Tom, before we get into it, take a quick second and tell us a little about you and your background.
Tom: I am the Industry Manager here at Rockwell Automation. I have been with the company for close to 30 years and held this position now for the last seven.
Todd Schnick: Tell us about the work that you are doing at Rockwell. Tell us about the water/wastewater division.
Tom: Well, the water business is a global business. We got representatives not only in North America. We cover pretty much every part of the country, but we have also got representation in Europe, Asia and also in South America too that we coordinate projects with them.
So between kind of developing our go-to-market strategy with our team in Cambridge, Canada and our go-to-market strategy for Europe with our team in the UK, we make sure that we are doing the right things for customers, we do right things for our partners and we make sure that we are delivering a high quality product that is relevant to really the industry and what our customers really need.
Todd Youngblood: I hate to dive right down into details but I have heard the term migration pedestal and I have learned a lot about this industry over the last two to three years. I have no earthly idea what that is.
Tom: Sure. Over at the booth, we have got a migration pedestal and what that really is, Rockwell is really all about maintaining our customer’s investment. And whether that be with our own products or whether that be with some of our competitive products. Okay?
Customers have made decisions over the last 10, 15, 20, 30 years and that equipment gets old and antiquated. We have come up with a very clean, low risk solution that allows our customers to migrate off that platform into a brand new Rockwell Automation control logics architecture that can really resustain them for now and also for the future.
They’ll maintain the existing instrumentation. We maintain existing wiring and our product drops right on top of that and we pull the information from those products that are in the field and we can give the customer a brand new system in a low risk fashion that allows them to migrate from where they were before to brand new system today.
Todd Schnick: And this has something to do with the process control, yes?
Tom: Absolutely. Yeah, it is all part of our process control strategy. When a customer does not have the ability to come in to a brand new system from start to finish, they can do this on a phased kind of fashion.
Todd Youngblood: And we heard a lot about aging infrastructure and as I hear you talking about migration. I mean it sounds like it plays into that world of either keeping the infrastructure going a little bit longer or easing the transition or a little bit of both, maybe helping with timing?
Tom: Sure. Yeah, you know one of the things that plagues this industry in general is just the age of the equipment that is out there. You go to large cities, large metropolitan cities and even small places and the equimpent they have in there can be upwards of 50 years old.
Today, our government requires very strict water quality capability. It requires the ability to limit their discharges into our streams and sewers. Well, it is very difficult to do that kind of process control and reporting capability with these older systems that do not have access to the newer capability that Ethernet platforms allow you, that foundation fieldbus platforms allow you, or the HART systems really allow you.
So there is a deep requirement in this industry to eventually upgrade that to something that is more current to be able to handle the requirements that municipal customers have.
Todd Schnick: Now Rockwell is showcasing these migration pedestals here at WEFTEC, correct?
Todd Schnick: You are also showing off this PowerFlex 7000. Tell us about that.
Tom: Yeah. The PowerFlex 7000 is a medium-voltage drive. We have had this product out in the market for quite a while. It is probably 10 years old and even today, it is still a state-of-the-art product. I recommend anybody to go over to the booth and take a look at it and see what a nice, clean, easy-to-maintain product that really is.
The PowerFlex 7000 – we have got most if not all the municipalities use medium-voltage products, use our PowerFlex 7000 product. It is widely acceptable. It is compact in design. Like I said, it is very easy to maintain because of its modular power structure and also it has built-in a low-harmonic capability that does not put poor power quality back into the customer’s power grid.
Todd Schnick: Now, we have had the pleasure to broadcast from the Rockwell Automation fair in the past.
Todd Schnick: I really enjoyed that. What I loved most about it was the emphasis on working with your partners and I know you love to talk a little bit about some of your partners?
Todd Schnick: So get into that a little bit.
Tom: Sure. You know first off, Automation Fair, not that I am sitting here at WEFTEC and we’ll plug our upcoming Automation Fair –
Todd Schnick: Oh, that is okay.
Tom: But in November, we bring in, and this year it is in Philadelphia, we will bring in close to 10,000 dedicated Rockwell customers and our partners. We do this every year and it is a travelling show around the country.
Really in the water industry, our partners are critical to our success. As a matter of fact in the booth this year, for the first time, we have a joint booth with Endress+Hauser. Endress+Hauser maintains instruments, they make instruments, and they are very, very complementary to our success in the industry.
We do not make instruments, Endress+Hauser does, and the two companies have come together and really built this interoperability capability between the two products. So that really the E&H instrument looks like an I/O rack. It is basically another extension of our process control architecture.
All the things that are in the instrument reside in our control logics processor and it makes it very, very easy for the customer to program it, maintain it and get the data that they need it in a relevant fashion.
Some of the other partners we have here locally is RACO booth is over here. They make alarming systems and again, they complement what Rockwell does both with our products and also with some of the capability that they have too.
Some of the other people that are walking the show and are supporting us, saw the guys from TCI, the guys from Festo, Phoenix Digital, ProSoft -- they are all here with us complementing what we have and making it better for our customers.
Todd Schnick: Let me ask you a question the other way. Is there anybody here that is not a partner?
Tom: Oh yeah. There are quite a few people that are not partners. Yeah, exactly.
Todd Youngblood: You know, I get the partnering thing and I applaud. I mean Rockwell has done a pretty amazing job of partnering with a lot of different people but from the other side of the coin, if I am a customer, I want one throat to choke.
Todd Youngblood: I mean I have got this really complex system, lots of different vendors. Talk about how Rockwell deals with that.
Tom: Well, the partners that we pick, yeah I mentioned this earlier, this idea of interoperability and being able to feed into our integrated architecture strategy. It is more than a strategy; it is actually a capability that we have.
Really what that means is that although these partners are obviously different companies, they have been given the right and the capability to actually put product right into our I/O rack. So when you talk about one throat to choke, Rockwell is the one throat they can choke, right?
But at the end of the day, each partner needs to stand on their own but, ultimately, if you go with a Rockwell partner, they have been prequalified, they have been pretested and they have been given the capability to integrate directly into our data set in our products.
That does not happen with anybody, okay? As a matter of fact, it is not authorized with everybody. So we go through a very strict requirement of making sure that the products that these people deliver and integrate into our platform are what they need to be and they are going to work. So you know one throat to choke, that is still us. No question about it.
Todd Schnick: Well, Tom. I hate to say but we are out of time. Before we let you go, how can people get in touch with you and where can they learn more about the work at Rockwell Automation and water/wastewater?
Tom: If they are here at the show, they can certainly stop over at the Allen-Bradley/Rockwell Automation/Endress+Hauser booth. They can get a hold of me at email@example.com and stop by the booth and check out what we have got to offer and we look forward to seeing them there.
Todd Schnick: Tom Schaefer, Global Industry Manager for Rockwell Automation and water/wastewater, it was great to have you. Thank you so much for joining us.
Tom: Thanks. I appreciate it.
Todd Schnick: All right. That wraps this segment for Water Online Radio, live from WEFTEC in New Orleans. We will be right back.