INSITE Partner Invests $1 Billion in the Connected Factory

Published June 18, 2018

Rockwell Automation is a Fortune 500 company based out of Milwaukee. It’s the world’s largest enterprise dedicated to industrial automation and information. The company is also a valued partner with INSITE since its controls (through Allen-Bradley) serve as the brains of our case erectors and case sealers. So when Rockwell Automation makes big moves, we pay attention.

This story from The Street is about the $1 billion equity investment Rockwell just made in PTC, a global software company that delivers a technology platform and solutions to help companies design, manufacture, operate, and service products for a smart, connected world.

The new partnership should help drive innovation and development in the smart factory segment. PTC brings experience and success in selling industrial connectivity software for factory automation; Rockwell brings its experience of having, as CEO Blake Moret put it, “lived on the plant floor for a long time.” As a merger of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), the fit is a natural one. “Together, we will offer the most comprehensive and flexible IoT offering in the industrial space,” says Moret. It only makes sense, as smart, connected appliances have spread from homes (thermostats, door locks, lights, sensors—you name it) to business to manufacturing and facilities engaged in packaging automation.

The Integration of the two organizations has already begun, according to PTC President and CEO Jim Heppelmann:

“The fit is quite nice,” he says, adding that it is hard to tell which product is which in demonstrations because “they’re so nicely integrated together.” Demos of the products working in tandem will take place at PTC’s LiveWorx conference in Boston next week.

Heppelmann says PTC, which already conducts a sizable amount of business in the aerospace and defense industry, sees IoT in the factory as a very big opportunity that they are hoping to capture with the new partnership. “Clearly, the aerospace and defense industry has factories full of big, expensive equipment,” he says. “Working with Rockwell Automation, we now have a lot of technology and a lot of expertise to try to get more value out of that equipment, avoid unplanned downtime and have more productive manufacturing processes.”

This movement if IoT technology into the factory is all part of what Heppelmann called “Perhaps the most substantial change in the manufacturing firm since the Second Industrial Revolution, more than a century ago,” in a 2015 article in Harvard Business Review.

For INSITE customers, it could have big implications. Case sealers and erectors that track how they are used, and anticipate repair needs while they’re still minor, rather than major (and line-stopping). And when repairs are needed, diagnostics can be completed remotely, so the service tech has the parts they need on hand when they arrive on site. These types of smart, connected machines would give us the ability to optimize equipment even more than we currently can, absorbing lessons from other industries and applications. With this type of technology, we could push software updates and improvements that drive customer value long after the packaging equipment is purchased.

While this isn’t the current state of play, this move by Rockwell Automation indicates that it may well be the future of manufacturing and consumer packaged goods. The good news is that INSITE’s case erecting and case sealing equipment is perfectly positioned to incorporate and leverage this kind of technology.

After all, we believe the future is indeed smart, connected, and most of all, bright.


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