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Rockwell and Microsoft expand partnership

07 October, 2020

Rockwell Automation and Microsoft have announced a five-year expansion of their existing partnership, aimed at empowering manufacturers with the agility, intelligence, and scale to deliver digital transformation initiatives from the cloud to the edge.

The two companies plan to deliver edge-to-cloud systems that will link information between the development, operations and maintenance teams in industrial organisations, helping to improve their “digital agility”.

They say that by combining their expertise in the industrial and IT markets, they will enable these teams to digitally prototype, configure and collaborate, without needing to invest in costly physical equipment. This will cut their infrastructure costs and boost their productivity.

The unified data environment will also enable OT (operational technology) and IT teams to access and share data models not only across their organisations, but with outside partners as well.

“This partnership provides Rockwell Automation and Microsoft customers with a holistic, simple solution for IIoT development and operations and removes data silos that hinder industrial digital transformation initiatives,” says Rockwell’s chairman and CEO, Blake Moret. “By eliminating a core barrier to automation initiatives, industrial organisations establish a digital thread connecting the entire enterprise which, in turn, accelerates innovation, maximises productivity and optimises operations.”

Rockwell and Microsoft have already co-developed more than 20 use cases in sectors including food and beverage, household and personal care, and life sciences. The expanded partnership will augment and enhance these offerings.

The new relationship between Rockwell and Microsoft will build on an expanding partnership which includes Microsoft offering Rockwell software via its Azure Marketplace

“No business is 100% resilient,” says Judson Althoff, executive vice-president of Microsoft ‘s global commercial business. “Those fortified with digital capabilities and assets are more resilient than others, and the cloud is how they will thrive. We are pleased to deepen our already strong, decade-long relationship with Rockwell Automation to help businesses simplify industrial transformation, accelerate business outcomes and innovate with agility.”

One customer that has seen a preview of what Rockwell and Microsoft are planning to offer is New Zealand’s largest company, the Fonterra Co-operative Group, which is responsible for 30% of the world’s dairy exports. Tristan Hunter, general manager of automation and operational technology at the company, says he is “excited” about the collaboration. “Moving data from our on-premise assets securely with context and providing new workflows for us to analyse and drive better outcomes is important to maintaining Fonterra’s high standards across our many plants globally.”

Organisations can already access Rockwell systems via Microsoft’s Azure Marketplace. The next phase of cooperative developments will be unveiled at Rockwell’s Automation Fair At Home event in the first quarter of 2021.

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