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The Top 5 Moments of Automation Fair® 2023: Relive the Excitement

Automation Fair
December 5, 2023

In early November, many of us gathered in Boston for the industrial automation event of the year: Rockwell’s Automation Fair®. This is a time for industry members—from customers and partners to Rockwell team members—to connect and learn about the future of manufacturing together. This year’s event was no exception, and it was an especially exciting opportunity for Plex community members to gather again in person.

If you couldn’t make it to this year’s Automation Fair® or just want to reflect on the week, read on as we look back at the top 5 moments from the event:

Event-Wide Focus on Sustainability

Going green has long been the name of the game and Automation Fair® was planned with sustainability at top of mind. Here are a few ways that sustainability rightfully stole the show:

ESG Net Zero Now Summit

This half-day experience focused on new strategies and technologies that are helping to build a better world. Participants heard from sustainability thought leaders and key Rockwell partners dedicated to implementing more sustainable business practices.

Sustainability Booth

If you had a chance to stop by the Rockwell sustainability booth on the Expo floor, then you know just how interesting this setup was—beyond the eye-catching, interactive globe marking Rockwell’s sustainable initiatives across the world, this booth featured important information about sustainable efforts occurring within the company and thoughtful prompts to encourage conversation or self-reflection.

30 Sustainability-Focused Sessions

In addition to the other ways sustainability was showcased at the event, there were also 30 sessions centered on sustainability with many learning moments for participants to make the most of. Topics ranged from looking broadly at sustainable manufacturing to discussing best practices across specific industries. Everyone departed these sessions feeling better equipped and recommitted to their sustainability efforts.

Sustainable Event Planning

Proudly, this entire event was planned with sustainability in mind and no corners were cut. Here are some of the important steps taken by Rockwell’s event planning team:

  • Booths and assets will be reused for at least three years.
  • Equipment shipping has been consolidated to reduce the number of deliveries and emissions.
  • The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center was chosen, in part, for its focus on sustainability. The Center is certified LEED Silver by the U.S. Green Building Council, has state-of-the-art lighting and HVAC systems, limits energy and water usage, and has a 47% average waste diversion rate.
  • Food and beverage partners are committed to sourcing local food and drinks where possible and composting food waste and packaging.
  • Digitizing limited printed material and encouraged attendees to make use of the Events ROK mobile app.

It was clear that sustainability was a priority at this year’s Automation Fair® and we’re excited to see how that commitment continues to evolve in the years to come.

The Women in Manufacturing Luncheon

When an event is sponsored by Plex partner Control+M Solutions, you know you’re in for a good time. That was exactly the case with this year’s Women in Manufacturing Luncheon, which featured a thoughtful panelist discussion centered around the question: “Can Women Solve Manufacturing’s Workforce Crisis?” 

The short answer is that yes, women play a critical role in ensuring the success of the manufacturing industry. This luncheon also served as a space for colleagues across the industry to connect, share their backgrounds, and find solidarity together. An exciting part of this year’s event was that the panel discussion was recorded as an episode of Rockwell Automation Women in The Field podcast, Shatter. If you weren’t able to make this event, then you’re in for a treat. You can listen to the recording and hear from the panelists yourself right here.

Get to know the panelists from the luncheon:

  • Hannah Miller, Global Account Manager, Rockwell Automation (Moderator)
  • Patti Nowak, Owner, Control+M Solutions
  • Dr. Janell N. Caitlin, Vice President, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, FIRST
  • Meena Held, Manager, Solutions Consultants, Rockwell Automation
  • John Howard II, Founder & CEO, JH2 Performance Group
  • Kasey Jastrzembowski, FemCare Controls & Cybersecurity Technical Director, Proctor & Gamble

Celebrating the Creativity of Plex Customers

One of the best parts of this year’s Automation Fair® event was how many Plex faces were spotted around the Boston Convention Center. We can’t always be in-person, so we loved the chance to see people off-screen and in real-life. Most of all, we loved learning more about the amazing work our customers are accomplishing.

In case you missed it, here’s this year’s Impact Award winners:

Innovator: The Shyft Group

The Shyft Group is changing the sustainable game with their recent development of an EV commercial vehicle. With the help of Plex, they managed to create a prototype for this vehicle in just 9 months. We can’t wait to see what’s next!

Industry Leader: ParkOhio – Assembly Components Group

ParkOhio ACG has leveled up its use of Plex by bringing Plex MES and Plex MES A&O on board at three additional facilities this past year. The result? Reduced overhead costs and increased shop-floor insights. Such a change has allowed them to lead the way in their industry.

Transformer: Superior Trim

Superior Trim has demonstrated the value that comes with transformation—they're now one of the top suppliers to the heavy truck market. No small feat, the impressive effort from this company has led to a continual increase in sales year after year.

Looking for more details on the stories behind our Impact Award winners? Keep an eye out for our upcoming blog posts featuring more in-depth overviews of the incredible work of these three companies. These are stories you’ll definitely want to take note of.

A Preview into Plex’s Future

Automation Fair® is a great time for Plex users to connect with one another and talk about their experience with our smart manufacturing solutions. But it’s also an amazing opportunity to hear what’s next for Plex as we take time to look at the year, together.

During the Plex Customer Summit, updates, reflections, and plans were revealed for everyone to get excited about. Here are the key takeaways:

Plex Connectedness

One element that sets Plex apart from other smart manufacturing solutions is its connectedness. Anthony Murphy discussed this concept during his keynote at the Plex Customer Summit. He shared with audience members that one critical component of connectedness is “providing technology that enables employees who are new to a company to be as safe and productive as someone who's been at the company for 30 years.” So, how does Plex do this? Two ways: partnerships with Canvas GFX and Microsoft (along with other efforts!).

Plex & AI

AI is the talk of the technology town—and for good reason. It’s been a part of the conversation over here at Plex, too. Ara Surenian provided summit attendees with insight on the role AI will play in Plex’s supply chain management technology. One area of focus includes utilizing AI for finite scheduling within Plex, with hopes of increasing accuracy and reducing waste. This exciting development is currently in the works and Surenian said the hope is to offer it to Plex customers by fall 2024.

The Downeast Cider Tours

Since implementing Plex in October 2022, Downeast Cider has been on a track to execute ambitious growth plans. Their numbers speak for themselves: they’ve been able to reduce carrying cost inventory by 10% as well as costs of goods sold by 17%. The small craft cider business knows that these are positive changes within their operations and stand as important milestones. It’s part of why they are now the No. 1 cider in New England—even more exciting, they’re the No. 1 craft cider in the United States. 

Downeast Cider runs a unique operation and, as a result, their off-site tours offered during Automation Fair® filled up quickly. These tours provided a behind-the-scenes look into their production process and, of course, the magic behind their tasty ciders. Check out the photos below and experience the tour for yourself:

Here’s to Next Year

Automation Fair® 2023 was an event for the books. From the collective excitement, interesting keynotes, and Plex-specific programming for our community to take advantage of, the fun truly never stopped. What was your favorite part? Let us know and be sure to join us for all the fun and learning next year!

To view recordings from this year’s event, visit Automation Fair® on Demand.

About the Author

Plex Team

Plex Systems, Inc., a Rockwell Automation company, is the leader in cloud-delivered smart manufacturing solutions, empowering the world’s manufacturers to make awesome products. Our platform gives manufacturers the ability to connect, automate, track and analyze every aspect of their business to drive transformation. The Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform includes solutions for manufacturing execution (MES), ERP, quality, supply chain planning and management, Industrial IoT and analytics to connect people, systems, machines, and supply chains, enabling them to lead with precision, efficiency and agility.