Jen Singson (JS) at EUA: Why did Rockwell Automation decide that this was a good investment for the organization?
John Miles (JM): The entire company is seeing a transformation to digital… Digitalization of the world as a whole, and specifically in manufacturing. Silicon Valley is an innovation hub for the rest of the world. Hi-tech, automotive, life science activity and innovation are based here. RA saw this as a perfect opportunity to show how innovative we are by focusing on one industry, the electric vehicle (EV) market. We want to make a splash into the market and to the world. EV has been impactful for Rockwell Automation and for manufacturing as a global industry. Executives in all industries can realize value in visiting the facility.
JS: How has this space supported your customer interaction since it opened?
JM: The gates have been flooded. The space is booked out in advance, sometimes months out. Initially, we were expecting the Innovation Center (IC) to allure people only wanting to know about EV technology, but many other industries have come in to learn more about their market/sectors: our sales teams who are interested in getting an update on their business, entrepreneurs who want to check it out, oil and gas customers and many more.
I saw the power a place like the Milwaukee Customer Experience Center (CEC) has, having worked remotely there. RA now has the power of having this [Innovation Center] as an entry point on the West Coast, especially for customers coming from Asia.
JS: What feedback have you received from your employees (as on-lookers or users) on the space? Is it open to employee use when not booked?
JM: The space has been busy enough that it hasn’t been very available to open to visiting RA employees. They use the second floor as visitor office space, because there are several available spaces to work there. RA employees who have direct interactions with customers at the EVIC use these enclaves all the time and appreciate that they are within the space. Local teams put out a message to visitors who are local area customers from local sales teams:
1: Software strategies – how we partner in software.
2: An industry specific space for [manufacturing technologies such as] VR, AR, analytics, PTC.
3: With a core platform of production center (MES platform) we are able to achieve full integration: displaying the digital layer overlaid with a manufacturing plant and
4: Cross industry: impacting machine builders. Telling the full story in one location through FactoryTalk Innovation Suite. [powered by PTC, a Rockwell Automation partnership]
JS: What design solutions do you feel were the most effective?
JM: Three design solutions stand out as most effective:
1: Having demo machines onsite – a physical machine to show the battery production process.
2: Being able to show actual software solutions in a demo environment is key. At the VR table, people get excited because they can see first-hand how they can use the product immediately, instead of waiting months to answer this question.
3: Innovation suite demos: using the layer of nine-screen monitor displays where we can show a client an overlay of how RA products work. For example, take some actual physical component in field, make a copy, and show it on screen for demo purposes to tell the story to the customer. We can do this with machines using real time visuals on the wall. This communication tool is very impactful for customers.
JS: Where do you see the future of EV customer interaction?
JM: The future is what we’ve started to dig into at the innovation center: becoming completely virtual, whether 3D, VR or digital. Today, folks are still following a ‘design - build - troubleshoot - launch’ approach. These aspects will become fully digital and condense time from beginning to end. Speed to market allows cost-effectiveness and digitally signed/safe data. There are higher chances of error/injury in real world building, but here we have machine building - a more digital route to faster production. We want to keep the excitement going. The goal is to keep using this IC as part of the process of selling/marketing the company’s platforms and services.
Jen Singson, AIA, NCARB