Rockwell aims to change narrative of automation and people

Rockwell Automation chairman and CEO Blake Moret

When Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation Inc. unveiled new branding this fall with the tagline “Expanding Human Possibility,” chairman and chief executive officer Blake Moret acknowledged it was “a little strange” for an automation company to place an emphasis on people.

Rockwell Automation chairman and CEO Blake Moret

In an interview Tuesday, Moret used the word “ironic” instead of “strange” but he was getting at the same point.

“We mean it when we say people are our most important asset and we believe our customers feel the same way,” Moret said.

“By using automation to free people up from the repetitive physical labor and utilizing their skills for what people do best, and that is utilizing creativity and innovation and decision-making … we think that’s the combination that can help our customers be as competitive as possible,” he added.

In a 2017 Pew Research survey, 72 percent of U.S. adults said they were worried about a future in which robots and computers can do many human jobs.

Asked if the new branding is intended to help change the narrative of what automation will do, Moret said: “I think it is about changing the narrative, but in a positive way. Jobs are going to have to continue to evolve for companies to remain competitive and that’s the premise that we start with, that we as well as our customers have to compete against some very strong companies all over the world.”

He said companies need the combination of a good strategy, technology and human expertise to compete.

“When companies are able to effectively do that, they’re successful so they can grow their operations, which requires more people,” Moret said. “If they’re able to do it profitably and efficiently then they have the bandwidth to be able to engage in new lines of business, which again involve hiring new people.”

He added that with the need for jobs to evolve Rockwell is investing in workforce development with things like the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing. The program, a joint effort with ManpowerGroup, trains veterans as technicians to work on Rockwell automation equipment.

“I think it is an important way in which we can strengthen the communities we do business in,” Moret said of the responsibilities of automation companies to help in re-skilling workers as jobs are displaced. “It’s also a business imperative so that we can ensure that we have and our customers have engaged and competent workers who are comfortable with the new technology.”

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.