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The New/Old Meaning of Orchestration and the Quest for the Connected Enterprise

Aug. 25, 2015

At one time, Allen-Bradley, now an important brand within Rockwell Automation, had a first-rate orchestra and chorus. This historical tidbit ties in rather nicely with Rockwell’s leadership in the IIoT arena.

The past can be a strange and sometimes disturbing place. It can also be rather charming. Consider that for a big chunk of the 20th century, Allen-Bradley, the industrial controls company, now an important brand within Rockwell Automation, was widely known for fronting a first rate orchestra and chorus composed entirely of rank-and file employees...It was an activity began almost by accident in the 1940s that quickly became a focus of employee enthusiasm and company pride; their on-stage professionalism at industry and customer-events around the country serving as a surrogate indicator of the teamwork and quality the company stood for...
Today, of course, Rockwell as a whole is championing the benefits of a broad line of factory automation equipment and IIoT philosophies that promote the benefits of better and more universal connectivity and coordination – something that is often referred to as orchestration.  Drawing an analogy with the old Allen-Bradley musical endeavors isn’t a bad way of highlighting just what IIoT investments can provide --- bringing together highly disparate components into a harmonious whole.

Beyond my somewhat labored connection of the past and present, it is worth noting some of the recent, wide-ranging leadership shown by Rockwell in the IIoT arena. For instance, in events such as TechEd, Rockwell Automation has focused on creating what it refers to as The Connected Enterprise.  In this vision, Rockwell says operations managers will be equipped to profitably manage and improve manufacturing and industrial processes; IT executives will be able to reduce network complexities and exposure to security risks, while productivity-improving information will reach workers “in a context that is meaningful for each role.” The TechEd events have drawn thousands of attendees at a variety of locations. While there is an obvious focus on Rockwell capabilities, as with many such efforts at industry evangelism, the net result will be a “lifting of all boats” on the rising IIoT tide.

Rockwell has been active in other related realms, too. For instance, last year the company endorsed the Cybersecurity Framework developed under the auspices of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. A joint effort that included input from Rockwell Automation and a diverse group of industry stakeholders. It builds on existing standards, guidelines, and practices, for critical infrastructure organizations to better manage and reduce cybersecurity risk, obviously an ongoing concern as the IIoT expands. 

More of Rockwell Automation’s take on IIoT will be available at SmartIndustry 2015, where Beth Parkinson, Market Development Director, Connected Enterprise, Rockwell Automation, will discuss “The Transformative Power of Industrial Enterprise Connectivity,” in particular looking at how an information-enabled Connected Enterprise creates a competitive advantage and “How to make The Connected Enterprise a reality in your organization.”

Alan R. Earls is a Boston-based writer focused on technology, business, and manufacturing — a field where he spent the earliest part of his career. He has written for publications and websites as diverse as The Boston GlobeComputerworld and Modern Infrastructure as well as Industry, The Manufacturer, and Today's Machining World.