Amid the economic doldrums affecting growth expectations for just about every company in the electrical industry, there are bright spots — often discrete business units within larger companies that continue to post double-digit sales gains. At Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee, the company’s Systems and Solutions group, which provides engineering services to support applications of the company’s automation and control products, posted growth of 29 percent in 2008.
Systems and Solutions has grown over the past 10 years partly through acquisitions and partly through organic growth. It actually does more business outside the United States than it does domestically, says Terry Gebert, vice president and general manager.
“A lot of our customer base requires the owner of the technology to be the implementer,” Gebert said. “Certainly in the developing part of the world — Latin America and Asia — the customers moreso demand it because the infrastructure and the capabilities aren’t as strong.”
The group as 2,500 to 3,000 engineers in hundreds of offices around the world, and between 600 and 650 engineers in the United States, working in a mix of large offices concentrated around process industries and smaller satellite offices. The group’s largest offices are in Cleveland, Houston, Denver, London, Singapore, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Sal Paulo and Mexico City.
Rockwell’s recent acquisition of Rutter Hinz, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, gives the group a larger presence in the Canadian process industries as well as the mining industry around Denver. Previous acquisitions over the past three years have brought similar advantages in domain expertise and geographic coverage — ProsCon and ICS/Triplex in Europe added to the group’s capabilities in oil and gas and process safety; CIE in Latin America brought life sciences expertise; and Xi’An Hengsheng in central China last December gave them a presence in China’s fast-growing power industry.Having a group doing applications engineering would seem to put Rockwell in conflict with systems integrators and systems designers who spec the company’s products, but that’s seldom a problem, Gebert says. “We’re partners with a lot of our SIs and SDs. There’s 50 percent of our customer base that’s not going to buy from a third party. We use our partners as part of our execution, so they’re part of our team.”