Rockwell Automation looking to acquire good Indian engineering firms

Hardev Sanotra

Philadelphia, Nov 14 (IANS) Rockwell Automation, the largest global provider of industrial automation, is looking to acquire good local engineering companies and systems integrators in India while seeking to expand its workforce in the country.

This was stated by Chairman and CEO of the company, Blake Moret, in response to queries by a group of visiting journalists, after opening the "2018 Automation Perspectives" event here.

Moret said there was considerable investment by the $6.7 billion company in India and it would expand its workforce at its R&D centres in Bengaluru, Pune and Delhi-NCR.

In Bengaluru, Rockwell's India arm employs nearly 1,000 people.

Moret, however, declined to give details of any proposed acquisition, saying "we do not reveal deals which have not been done".

He said that much of the company's investment was in the "customer facing" resources to ensure that customers enjoy a good experience with their products.

According to the Rockwell executive, India was one of the fastest growing countries in the world with high GDP numbers.

"As more and more people from the middle class look for consumer products, clean water, energy and pharmaceuticals, it will drive growth in automation," Moret said.

There had been broad-based growth, he added, in the five key areas in which Rockwell is focused -- automobiles, consumer products (including home and personal care as well as food and beverages), life sciences, oil and gas and mining.

The "2018 Automation Perspective" is being followed by an "Automation Fair" with 150 exhibitors here.

Asked whether the US-China trade war had affected the company which has a presence in over 80 countries, Moret, stating that "uncertainty is not helpful," informed that the gross impact of the tariff war and retaliatory actions would have an impact on the company of around $90 million, as had been mentioned by it earlier, but the "net impact would be zero."

This was because, Moret said, of the mitigating actions that Rockwell had taken, including moving manufacturing around - "either ours or suppliers'" - and price increases in selective products affected by tariffs. He emphasised that it would have zero impact on its products and services in the coming year too.

Earlier, giving his inaugural speech at the "Automation Perspectives", Moret said 2018 had been a "watershed year for us with great growth and performance," coming after the recession of 2017, and they were all looking forward to 2019 being another great year as the US economy continued to be strong.

There would be double-digit growth for new enterprise-connected solution and high-value connected services, he added.

Moret, however, said a worrisome area was that a large portion of the workforce - Rockwell employs about 23,000 people - would be going into a "wave of retirement" without enough people coming in.

The companies would have to compete in a global economy, become more agile and use hi-tech to leverage growth. There would be a more rapid influence of its technology which will pick up pace.

"We embrace that change and we embrace that need for speed that may not have been there earlier," the Rockwell executive mentioned.

He talked about the strategic partnership in June this year with software and services provider PTC to meet the challenge, saying partnerships were at the core of Rockwell's belief:

"We can't do it alone," he said, adding that "when we do this well, we can expand human possibilities."

During the interaction, Moret replied to the age-old question about automation versus employment, saying he "cannot guarantee that automation won't displace workers".

"There's going to be change and any attempt to preserve the same exact jobs of the fifties is not going to be possible."

But, he emphasised, that newer kinds of jobs would be created and, with thoughtful training programmes, there will be demand which means "more jobs would be created than lost."

He said that change is inevitable and competitiveness is the best way to achieve growth and efficiency through a combination of highly-engaged workforce leveraging advanced technology.

"Companies use the combination effectively to compete, which means they can sell more and expand, make more margins and buying more companies, boosting the need for more people," Moret noted.

(Hardev Sanotra is in Philadelphia at the invitation of Rockwell Automation. He can be reached at hardev.sanotra@ians.in)

--IANS

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