Opportunities Amid A Pandemic: Rockwell Automation On Digital Transformation

Marcelo Tarkiieltaub, regional director of Southeast Asia, Rockwell Automation

IAA interviewed Marcelo Tarkieltaub, regional director of Southeast Asia, Rockwell Automation on digital transformation best practice and regional opportunities.

IAA interviewed Marcelo Tarkiieltaub, regional director of Southeast Asia, Rockwell Automation on digital transformation best practice.The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the manufacturing sector like no crisis before it. “Every part of the manufacturing sector has been impacted by Covid-19,” said Marcelo Tarkieltaub, regional director of Southeast Asia, Rockwell Automation, speaking exclusively to Industrial Automation Asia (IAA).

“However, that does not mean it has been negatively impacted,” added Tarkieltaub. “Some sectors are doing pretty good. We have to find ways to adapt. That is critical.”


“Having people on site to work and ensure they have the adequate resources has become a challenge for every single industry,” said Tarkieltaub.”Even for those industries that are doing well. Because going out and having people available in a safe manner became a big challenge, globally.”

Beyond manufacturing, avoiding supply chain disruptions is critical to ensure adequate resources and avert manufacturing shut down.

During the Covid-19, these problems are not unique to Southeast Asia but exist globally. No region has been unaffected by this.

“We are starting to see technologies and competence for industry 4.0 deployments. This is creating a flexible and smart manufacturing environment.”

How companies work and produce products is becoming extremely important. Companies are looking for alternative ideas and technologies to enable them to be more flexible.

Furthermore, some companies have pivoted their manufacturing facilities to produce ventilators and in-demand equipment to tackle the pandemic’s impact. Without a digitalised manufacturing environment, pivoting like this would be extremely challenging.

“This illustrates the importance of creating a manufacturing process that can be flexible enough to make those changes right now because of Covid-19,” said Tarkieltaub.

While Covid-19 has been distributive, it is unlikely to be the last such disruption we see this century. With global warming and an increased likelihood of natural disasters, manufacturers and the industry as a whole need to be flexible and be able to adapt to such scenarios.

“Digital transformation becomes a critical piece for companies,” said Tarkieltaub.

Embracing Digital Transformation

Manufacturers have faced many challenges throughout Covid-19, from ensuring safe distance to enabling remote work, to ensuring their manufacturing operations remain uninterrupted throughout this time.

However, for many manufacturers having an uninterrupted production is just not feasible given the circumstances. One thing is for sure though, for those manufacturers that invested in digital transformation before this crisis, navigating the current crisis is a lot smoother.

“Our customers understand the benefits of flexible and smart manufacturing. They are the ones who had the vision of Industry 4.0,” said Tarkieltaub. “Those manufacturers who embraced digital transformation were able to react faster and benefit from their investment,” he added.

And reacting fast is key for many manufacturers ensuring adequate resources and a resilient supply chain throughout any crisis. It is important for manufacturers to realise that this is a journey, said Tarkieltaub. “It is not about buying a piece of software or technology.”

Digital transformation requires a mindset change to be successful. As reported by the Harvard Business Review (HBR), a 2018 survey of directors, CEOs, and senior executives found that digital transformation risk is their number one concern in 2019. Yet 70 per cent of all digital transformation initiatives do not reach their goals.

The HBR further reported that of the US1.3 trillion that was spent on digital transformation throughout 2018, it was estimated that US$900 billion went to waste. 

The natural conclusion to this is why do some digital transformation efforts succeed while others fail? The simple answer is mindset.

Fundamentally, said the HBL, it is because most digital technologies provide possibilities for efficiency gains and customer intimacy. But if people lack the right mindset to change and the current organisational practices are flawed, digital transformation will simply magnify those flaws.

“You need to have different skill sets,” said Tarkieltaub. “It is a journey that a company has to embrace in every single layer of the organisation.”

Best Practice

As mentioned, embracing digital transformation is a journey, but as Tarkieltaub points out, “companies need to first make a business decision that the organisation as a whole wants to transform.”

“Companies will follow the cycle of assessing what they have in terms of processes and technologies and assess what type of infrastructure they have,” said Tarkieltaub.

Ultimately, when manufacturers decide to upgrade and transform their operations they need to take into account their legacy infrastructure and what would be required to update and replace legacy equipment that is not secured.

“You really need to make the OT and IT environments work together,” said Tarkieltaub. “A lot of times companies had a hard time making those two work together.”

However, “When we see that companies make this a company-wide task and there is a common understanding to transform the workforce, to upgrade the infrastructure, and create a sequence so that all these steps are done right. Those companies are successful,” said Tarkieltaub.

“I think the biggest mistake or the biggest challenge,” added Tarkieltaub, “is companies who want to wave a magic wand and change everything. That is where things start to become a challenge for them.”

Taking The Helm

Appointed in March 2020 as Southeast Asia’s regional director, Tarkieltaub took on the role at an unprecedented time.

Tarkieltaub has spent over 20 years at Rockwell Automation, most recently as the regional director for the Southern Cone, a portfolio within the Latin America region covering the markets of Argentina, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia.

“I feel we can do much more in Southeast Asia,” said Tarkieltaub. “We need to grow our business here and we definitely can.”

“I think we are in a unique position with the understanding that we have around the OT environment together with our technology and our partnerships and our FactoryTalk innovation suite.”

“We believe we bring a very nice combination to our customers to embrace the digitalisation transformation journey faster and in a more effective manner,” said Tarkieltaub.

“Our plan for the region is to be able to give back to the market and help the market to be more successful,” added Tarkieltaub. “We are part of the regional ecosystem and expect we will be able to help Southeast Asia to be more effective, more competitive.”

“That is what I expect to do,” said Tarkieltaub. “If that happens we are going to be successful as a business too.”

“For us, it is about bringing better business outcomes to our customers. It is not about the technology per se,” said Tarkieltaub.

Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia has its own set of challenges driven by its diversity. Languages and cultures vary sometimes drastically from country to country. In some respects, each country represents its own region. There are of course opportunities in this, but there are also unique regional challenges.

“You have to prioritise,” said Tarkieltaub. In regards to opportunities, “they are everywhere,” said Tarkieltaub. “It is definitely a region that is open for business.”

“The region is open to innovation. That creates a very interesting place for us to be because that is part of our DNA.”

“It is our job to help the region to be successful,” asserted Tarkieltaub.

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