Interview with José Paredes, responsible for the Rockwell Automation business in Spain


Rockwell Automation held ROKLive EMEA 2024 in Madrid from February 26 to 29 , an international meeting that brought together more than 1,200 professionals and focused on optimizing production, empowering people and promoting sustainability. José Paredes, SWC & ITD director. EMEA South Region Rockwell Automation explains to us what the event was about, in which attendees were able to explore the latest solutions and tools in the industrial field. From cybersecurity, to the integration of artificial intelligence and concern for efficiency and sustainability, Paredes also addresses in this interview the challenges and opportunities that companies in our country face in an increasingly competitive market.

With more than 120 years of history behind it, what is Rockwell Automation today?

Rockwell Automation is a leading global industrial automation and digital transformation company. It has its corporate headquarters in Milwaukee, in the state of Wisconsin, in the United States, and has approximately 29,000 employees, with whom we provide support to industrial clients in more than 100 countries.

Indeed, the company was founded in 1903 under the name Allen-Bradley, so we have more than 120 years of experience in this sector. Rockwell Automation’s goal is to provide solutions and services to help our customers improve their productivity and efficiency across manufacturing operations and industrial processes.

To do this, they have an extensive portfolio of products and services for a multitude of industries and applications…

Yes, Rockwell Automation groups its vast offering into three major divisions. First of all, we have what we call smart devices, which would be all the devices that we have in the plant and that connect to the control system. Here we find everything from low voltage components and sensors to industrial safety components and variable speed drives.

In a second place we would have what would be the control and visualization equipment itself, which includes everything that is software, both information and production management.

The third division includes services and solutions, that is, classic after-sales services, such as repairs, technical training, etc., and services more related to digitalization or cybersecurity consulting, and the possibility of developing turnkey projects.

In which sectors do you focus your efforts?

Rockwell Automation works in a wide range of sectors, from heavy industry, gas, metal and mining to industries such as automotive, beverage, life sciences, water, energy…

We offer clients automation and information technologies to connect their operations from the production plant to business management, that is, what we call the connected company, having a connection throughout the entire company.

I would like to underline our commitment to innovation, sustainability and the development of technologies for digital transformation.

Rockwell Automation has been in Spain for 40 years. What is our market like? How important is it for the multinational?

That’s right, directly or indirectly we have been in the country for 40 years. The Spanish industrial sector is well diversified and has important manufacturing segments for us, such as the automotive industry, for example, food, water management, both potable and dirty water, or renewable energy. In Spain there is an industrial and productive fabric that intensively uses automation and control technologies and that is clearly an opportunity for Rockwell Automation, for our solutions and our products. On the other hand, Spain and the Spanish industry are demonstrating increasing interest in digitalization and the adoption of advanced automation technologies. And this is perfectly aligned with our products and services, especially when we talk about digital transformation. Furthermore, Spain has a very attractive factor for the multinational.

What factor?

Cities like Barcelona and Madrid really offer a very interesting opportunity to attract talent, one of the difficulties that our sector faces. Spain is a very attractive country for its climate, its gastronomy, its culture and its customs. I am going to give an illustrative example: in our headquarters in Barcelona, ​​22 nationalities and 14 languages ​​coexist.

Spain has that attraction to attract, but it also suffers from the so-called “talent drain.” What does Rockwell Spain do to retain talent? How to compete with salaries in, for example, Germany?
Salaries are adapted to the purchasing power of each country. The important thing is that salary compensation is adapted to the contribution and work being done, and we are not just talking about a monetary issue, we are talking about a set, a benefits package, that is attractive to people, that there is motivation additional. The development of professionals is also important, offering them continued training and the possibility of improving technically, professionally and personally.

What other ways does the company retain talent?

Rockwell Automation has a culture of innovation and collaboration that is attractive to people who want to bring new ideas to the table.

Another very important point is also the flexibility of schedules and remote work. We promote policies that allow in some way to balance work and personal life.

With these measures we have managed to create two teams here that are currently working not only for Spain, but for all of Europe.

They have just organized ROKLive EMEA 2024 in Madrid. What could the professional who attended the event see? What is the balance of the meeting?

ROKLive EMEA 2024 has been a success. All the objectives we had have been met. For 4 days, the event has brought together more than 1,200 international professionals who have been able to attend more than 150 sessions, and have had the opportunity to talk with other professionals, exchange impressions, ideas and experiences.

If we talk about clients or users in Spain, the event has had the participation of more than 110 companies of different types, from end users, machinery manufacturers, distributors and integrators, and from all types of industries.

At the end of the sessions we always do a satisfaction survey, but we still don’t have the results.

And what are your impressions about it?

Well, while waiting for these conclusions, I can say that, based on the conversations I have had with many clients, the degree of satisfaction has been very high. There have been very positive comments about both the organization of the event and the technical sessions, and I believe that the possibility of networking, of meeting clients from all over EMEA who work in your industry, who have the same problems or concerns, is also highly valued. same needs and be able to share that time during the meeting.

I think that, in general, it has been a record year for this event in number of attendees and I think that when we really get the feedback from the clients it will be very, very positive for us.

Rockwell Automation is a global company with a presence all over the world, but that acts locally in each of its offices. Aren’t you afraid of being distant from the needs of the SMEs in our environment? Do you think they understand the real local needs of our business fabric with its peculiarities and own way of working and understanding the business? How do you try to approach this reality of our companies?

No, we are not afraid of being distant from the needs of SMEs because we are a global company, but we have a clear local presence. In Spain, as I told you, we have been working directly with our clients for 40 years. We have various mechanisms to ensure that we capture the needs of the market.

What mechanisms?

First of all, we have our sales force, which is continually working with customers, keeping track of what their needs are, what industries they are working in, what the status of their business is…

We also have a network of partners. We do not work alone, we have a network of distributors and system integrators. These companies, in the end, help us reach other clients and are also, in some way, the voice of those clients.

ROKLive EMEA 2024 itself is another mechanism to understand the market. The client has the opportunity to talk to us, to explain their situation and needs, and to give us feedback.

Finally, every year we conduct a survey among our clients, in which they explain how they see us as a company, what we are doing well and areas for possible improvement.

In short, I believe that we are very in contact with local clients of different sizes, from different industries, both directly and through our partners.

It seems that today automating and digitizing is a necessity to continue being an actor in an increasingly competitive market, however, not all companies, especially SMEs, are aware of this reality. What is your impression about it?

Well, it depends on the size of the company and the sector in which it works. Perhaps there are industries that are much more sensitive than others. In any case, I believe that an effort is being made by business organizations, governments and us as manufacturers to bring the concepts of digitization and automation of Industry 4.0 closer to the market.

What is the main argument they use to convince the businessman?

We strive to show them that it is a scalable topic, that there is no, so to speak, one-size-fits-all, but that it will depend on their needs, their implementation capabilities, the point at which they are. Perhaps a small company is not going to implement MES software right away, but it can start by placing smart devices in the plant that begin to generate information.

If we talk about digitalization, we have to understand where the client is, what is the first step they have to take on that path towards digitalization.

I think that, indeed, there are different speeds, different needs, but every day more industrial clients understand that digitalization and automation are essential if they want to be competitive.

A brake for many of these industrial clients is cybersecurity, the fear of being a connected company, of sharing sensitive data or uploading it to the cloud…

Well, I think security is something to take into account. It is clear that from the moment we are making an interconnection between industrial systems, that we are, in some way, connecting plant networks with information networks, an important field is opened to cyber threats. The client is aware; It is a concern that is present.

We work in two lines. The first is how we ensure that our products or our solutions are safe and we approach it from different points. Firstly, from the design of the product itself, taking into account the security aspects of each stage of the life cycle of a product from when you design it until you implement or maintain it.

Then, logically, following industrial security standards such as ISA/IEC 62443, and doing tests with the equipment trying to evaluate risks, identify vulnerabilities that we have or may have and, if we find them, make the necessary updates with firmware patches. or software that will allow these vulnerabilities to be resolved or respond to new threats that emerge.

This is how they approach security internally, but I pointed out a second line…

Yes, the second line is the services that we can offer the client to, for example, make a diagnosis of their situation in terms of possible cyber attacks or what measures could be implemented to resolve certain areas that may present vulnerability.

Despite not being a new concept, artificial intelligence has revolutionized the world in a few months. How has AI been integrated into Rockwell Automation, both internally, in manufacturing, and as a technological commitment to the products developed by the company?

Rockwell Automation is integrating artificial intelligence, both as a company in its production systems and in its products. We also use it in matters of improving internal processes, in supply chain management, in production planning or in inventory management, as well as when making manufacturing more flexible, making it smarter, the possibility of adapt and optimize in real time. In all these types of internal processes, AI allows us to be more efficient.

On the other hand, based on algorithms, for example, machine learning, we use AI to improve everything that is process control, predict equipment failures, avoid unwanted stops, in short, optimize production of our products.

The products we develop with learning algorithms offer much more advanced data analysis and make it easier for the user to make decisions. In predictive maintenance, identifying patterns or trends is very important to predict failures before they occur.

Another area where we are starting to apply AI is in customer support, for example, with chatbots to offer an immediate response to the customer, based on historical information, on information we have about common questions or common customer problems. We are working on it, but it hasn’t been released yet.

What challenges, in addition to artificial intelligence, do you think the sector faces today?

We recently conducted a survey of EMEA customers on smart manufacturing, giving us insight into the challenges and needs they face. One of them was, of course, cybersecurity.

Another was digital transformation, which everyone identifies as the way forward. The challenge is that this requires technologies and systems in which resources and time must be invested. This represents a great challenge for many companies.

Another aspect that clients highlighted is the shortage of qualified personnel and talent. This, for many companies, represents a limitation to continue growing.

Finally, an important challenge for respondents is sustainability.

Is the environment a real concern for companies, beyond the image they may project as sustainable companies?

Well, I would say yes. Not only is it real, there are also regulations about it. In the survey, 83% of companies had some type of policy related to ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance), that is, with environmental, social and corporate governance factors. The market, society is asking companies to be sustainable.

And is that market willing to pay more for a sustainable product or service just because it is sustainable? Who assumes the extra cost of being environmentally friendly?
I believe that consumers increasingly appreciate the sustainability aspects of companies and ecology. There are customers willing to pay more to have a more sustainable product, but possibly over time that will have to become normal.

I believe that the company has to find the mechanisms to be more sustainable. For example, if you improve your quality you will have less rejection, you will have less waste. If you optimize your energy consumption, your water consumption, you will also improve your sustainability and it will not have to affect the price of your product. You simply have to have the mechanisms, the controls.