Does Rockwell Automation Hate its Customers?

I recently had a problem with an Allen-Bradley CompactLogix processor. The power went out, came back on, and the processor had faulted with a major fault, type 01, code 01. The fault message said “Power lost and restored in RUN mode”. There must be a way to disable this fault, and just have it go back into run mode so the operator can recover.

I Googled for the fault message and I got a link to a helpful forum thread. In that forum thread there was a link to a Rockwell Automation Knowledgebase Article that seemed to have the information I was looking for. I clicked the link and it told me I needed to login. That’s annoying enough, but fine. I tried my normal username and password for such sites, and that didn’t work. I went into my encrypted file and pulled out the username and password I’d saved for Rockwell Automation. That didn’t work.

Ok, fine. It had an option to email me my user name. I waited a few minutes for the email – yes the username I was using was OK. I clicked on the option to reset my password. Got the email, reset the password to the one I had saved anyway. Success! I was logged in, but it had forgotten what article I was trying to get to, so I went back to the original forum post and clicked the link again. “This article has been locked, or …” blah blah blah about a TechConnect ID. Ok, so I go to my profile page and click on the tab for TechConnect support IDs. None registered. Hmm, no obvious way to register one. I go to the other profile page… TechConnect ID… excellent! I enter that, click save, and now it needs my company name, address, etc. Ok, I enter that… but now I can’t click save. I have to go backwards, re-enter the TechConnect ID, and my company name and address, and then it saved. Ok, great!

I go back to the forum and click the link again. “This article has been locked, or …” What?!? I check my list of TechConnect IDs again, and there’s nothing there. This is really annoying me at this point. Oddly, under my name it now has the name of some Mexican company, and some place in Mexico. I check my profile page again and it all looks right, and I double-check the TechConnect ID. It’s right (and I know it’s right because I’ve used it to call Rockwell tech support recently).

I go back to Google and search again for the fault code, and I see a link to the Rockwell knowledge-base article. I click on that… same message! What’s going on here? How can Google even index a page that’s behind a sign-up wall and doesn’t even show you the page unless you have a valid TechConnect ID?

Going back to the original forum post, I did find some useful information in there, but obviously the knowledge-base article would have helped me the most. How far behind is Rockwell Automation’s online support? They’re still in the 90’s. I realize there are still a lot of people in this industry who are happier to pickup a phone and call their phone support in a situation like this, but as time goes on and the Millennial Generation continues entering the workforce, self-help focused people like myself are going to be more and more commonplace. We won’t settle for getting our questions answered in hours or even 30 minutes anymore; we want to solve our stupid problems like this in minutes or even seconds, and the technology is there to let us do it. Stop putting unnecessary barriers in our way! Rockwell Automation online support: FAIL!

By the way, I just spent 3 extra minutes and entered my technical question and answer over on ControlsOverload, a website for technical questions and answers about industrial automation. A website where you don’t have to sign in, and nothing is ever blocked behind any kind of wall. If Google can see it, so can you. This is the future of finding information on the internet. Rockwell Automation: Make it easy for me to use your hardware, and maybe I’ll buy more! You know what… here’s Beckhoff’s whole 350MB knowledge-base available for download so you can take it with you onsite when you don’t have an internet connection. Brilliant isn’t it? It’s called openness and it’s the new name of the game. Wake up!

Update (9 MAR 2010): The Global Quality Leader from Rockwell has contacted me and it looks like we’re going to have a constructive discussion about some of these issues (and he also gave me a different TechConnect ID to try). +1 to Rockwell for having their ears on!

Update (20 MAR 2010): I posted a write-up on Rockwell’s response here.

18 thoughts on “Does Rockwell Automation Hate its Customers?

  1. Joe Aarssen

    After reading this post for a second time and Jeremey’s follow up to it I find myself questioning whether or not it is short sighted to assume that opening up a knowledge base will impact a company’s revenue negatively. Especially one who’s core business is selling a product not services.
    I buy a support agreement every year because it comes with my Toolkit (not picking on Rockwell – just sticking with the example). The toolkit I have to have because I need the software updates that come with it in order to do my job. If you’re a major purchaser of automation equipment chances you’re in the same boat. So you have us paying our money either way – any information you have to work harder to provide costs you revenue.
    If you not a major purchaser of automation equipment chances are you may or may not purchase a support agreement. However I know many end users (the ones not buying support but determining hardware specifications) who choose to switch brands based upon lower ownership costs (no support fees, open interface for programming such as USB – no special cables, etc). So you could argue that you may loose some support revenue from your end user base but would probably pick up more revenue selling hardware (which again is your core business).
    Maybe my economic model is off I’d love to know.

  2. Scott Whitlock

    I agree with you Joe. I think it comes back to recognizing that the lower the cost of a product, the more uses people will have for that product, so the more they will buy. Therefore if support costs less, then the automation equipment costs less, so ultimately sales would go up (this is because support is a complementary product to the equipment).

    What’s happened at Rockwell is that the equipment division and the support division are separate entities and both have to make a profit, so instead of strategically lowering the price of one to drive sales of the other, they’re trying to maximize profit individually.

    Whether we’re right or wrong, it’s still frustrating to use their support just because of all the barriers that are in place.

  3. David-Sarah Hopwood

    +10. It’s even more frustrating when the TechConnect-locked articles are basic technical documentation that should have been in the manual, or workarounds for bugs in their software and hardware.

  4. RIch Nixon

    Rockwell? What support?
    I HAVE a valid 2012 techconnect agreement and toolkit and I STILL can’t get any support out of them. Just this weekend I needed to grab FTVS 5.10 and I still can’t access their download page using THEIR login information from the almost $6K P.O. they got from us.
    Yes. RA hates it’s customers and users and they will p*ss on them at every opportunity.

  5. Mild Lee Interested

    I can see that this thread is a year old, but it looks like Rockwell haven’t changed much.

    In fact, they just got a whole lot worse.

    They now have a “single login” system, which not only means that you cannot access ANYTHING without a login, downloads are now restricted to the software that is registed to your company through you TechConnect contract! WTF! It’s not like you don’t already have (somewhat) onerous activation protocols. Now you can’t even download something to run in demo mode!

    I had to re-install FTVeiwSE 5.10 and the disk has been lost. Not only was I required to find and reactivate my Knowlegebase login, I needed to give the company name AND THE DISK SERIAL NUMBER!!!!! How stupid are these people? “Sorry, but you can’t download a copy of the program YOU OWN if you have lost the install disk”? Not ever Microsoft does that!
    I work on a small industrial site where – the electrician – I am the only “technical” person on site.

  6. Scott Whitlock Post author

    @Mild Lee Interested… I admit I haven’t been back to the Rockwell site since they started the single-sign-on business. Sounds like it didn’t really improve anything. We’ve become so used to stuff like this from Rockwell that we think it’s normal, but I’ve had some experiences recently that put it into perspective. I’m been playing with a pre-release version of Beckhoff’s TwinCAT 3. First, you can download and install a “demo” version for free, just like TwinCAT 2, and since it’s PC based automation, it’s actually a fully capable version. The version 3 demo only lasts 7 days, but in a striking example of user-friendliness, when your trial expires it asks you if you want to renew for another 7 days (you can do this indefinitely) and you just have to enter a captcha to prove you’re not a robot. This made it extremely easy setup a test bench system with a few I/O blocks we had lying around and do some experimenting. Also, the protocol for communicating between .NET and the PLC runtime (called ADS) is a free library DLL that they provide with the software so getting data in/out of the PLC is easy. All the documentation is online at It’s a very refreshing alternative to the Rockwell methodology. I hope RA some day gets the message.

  7. Mild Lee Interested

    I’ll go and have a look at TwinCAT.
    Lets not be to hard on Rockwell – there are plenty of other automation companies out there with a similar attitude. Have you ever tried to use Proface HMI gear? It’s a powerful platform, but they maintain control with a grip tighter than Apple. You can’t even see a demo without paying something.

    I had an experience recently that was an interesting contrast to Rockwell et al.
    I had a very small, non-critical monitoring application and thought I would try using a “smart relay”. Since this was a stand alone system which had to be dirt cheap, I decided to steer clear of the established brands and chose a Teco SG2 – an ultra cheap version of these common platforms. The programming software (V3.30) was pretty buggy, so I sent an email off to Teco offering some carefully thought out critisisms and some friendly suggestions. A few days later, I got back a very nice email in careful “manglish” with V3.31 as an attachment! We are now up to V3.32 in this friendly mutual development process and I am thoroughly enjoying it.
    Now, I don’t for a minute think that any mature and reputable industrial software company should use joe public for their beta testing, but it has been so refreshing to actually have a vendor respond to my feedback with something other than a suggestion that I upgrade (more money) or a “sorry, our software doesn’t do that”…

  8. Brian

    Certain KnowledgeBase articles are blocked even if you do have a valid TechConnect Support contract. There are different tiers of articles in the KB and you need to have the correct level of support in order to access them.

  9. Colin

    Rockwell support has one of the worst support systems I have ever dealt with in all aspects of life. Their website is horrendous. Not only from a efficiency point of view but from a money making point of view also. What annoys me the most is having to pay huge amounts of money every year for a support contract so that I can get software updates for the products I already own!! most of which are updateds and patches for the bad software they develop anyway!!

  10. mechatronics

    It is appropriate time to make a few plans for the longer term and it’s time to be happy. I have learn this put up and if I may I desire to recommend you few attention-grabbing issues or advice. Maybe you can write next articles regarding this article. I wish to learn more things about it!

  11. Christiana

    I am forced to continue to use this product, because the vendors we hire to install our facility systems don’t know how to use any other brand of PLC. For systems I design, I use Automation Direct. The ladder logic software is free, the HMI software is affordable, no yearly software maintenance contract is required and they use KepWare OPC, which is also affordable. The quality of the Rockwell Software is poor, unintuitive and support is non existent, except for the chat support.

    I liken their products to the plague.

  12. Miguel Maldonado

    That’s Allen Bradley, I don’t understand how they keep their tirany over the automation market, but have some clues though: they gained prestige and a solid market position in the past, then automation professionals learned their stuff, automation is not extremely easy to learn, so you standardize your equipment to a brand you’re familiar with.
    Since many people can’t afford learning new stuff for each project, Allen Bradley’s damn programming made it to the tech schools, where they don’t teach anithing else ever since, for the above reasons. It’s got from your ears, even your managers force you to develop stuff using that brand. Now speaking of their PLC ladder building and stupid nomenclature or HMIs that take forever just to boot-up, is material for a whole new thread; not to mention their lame CPUs that get faulted if you give’em a pretty good stare.

    Great, I was going to eat, and I’m already pissed off.

  13. Jim Bauer

    I’ve been working in industrial automation since the 1980’s following in my father’s footsteps. Allen Bradley is not the same company as it use to be many years ago. The quality of their products is terrible compared to what is once was. Now this TechConnect BS is the finial straw! To Hell with Allen Bradley! I have switched my comapany standards over to Siemens PLCs and HMI and Schneider Electric for electro-mechanical devices. Siemens is a different way of programming but once you understand it you will never go back to “Ailing Badly” again. There is a reason why the rest of the world uses Siemens.

  14. Rock Wall

    If you want to know what’s going on at Rockwell, take a look at yahoo finance insider trading. They have cut everywhere they can, moved all production to Mexico, and China. Moved their engineering to Asia and lost sight of everything that made them great.

    Top managers are cashing out and will laugh all the way to the bank. Keith N just god a tidy little 30 million stock option cashed in! In the last two years he has taken 10’s of millions in options while product groups have no research and development funds.

    Firmware is buggy at best, satety recalls on products are almost routine. MCC group moved to Mexico, Prices are too high, delivery is too long and quality sucks. Engineering group is all a bunch of newbies with no real world experience. Throw in some spin that services are future and you have the new Rockwell!

    Here are some postings of the dollars involved. All of this info is available in yahoo under insider trading.

    5-Jun-14 235,300 ROK Automatic Sale at $125.13 per share.
    (Proceeds of $29,443,089)

    9-Dec-13 13,452 ROK Automatic Sale at $111.92 – $112.25 per share.
    (Proceeds of about $1,508,000)

    22-Nov-13 3,608 ROK Sale at $112.36 – $113.32 per share.
    (Proceeds of about $407,000)

    18-Nov-13 13,005 ROK Sale at $112.02 per share.
    (Proceeds of $1,456,820)

    15-Nov-13 111,037 ROK Sale at $112.17 – $113.12 per share.
    (Proceeds of about $12,508,000)

    2-Aug-13 143,750 ROK Sale at $98.99 – $99.9 per share.
    (Proceeds of about $14,295,000)

    26-Aug-13 13,057 ROK Sale at $100.01 per share.
    (Proceeds of $1,305,830)

    7-Feb-13 60,116 ROK Sale at $90.32 – $91.06 per share.
    (Proceeds of about $5,452,000)

  15. Charles Ceb

    4 Years Later and still nothing changes, looks that them just talk to you to keep silence, but the Chat support its just filled with stupid indian people who just send links to manuals, and wash their hands as fast as they can on problems. The Knowledgebase have the worst search engine of the world and dont have descriptive answers, just ”general” ideas of what could happen. Oh… and the Phone support, 2 of 3 times they want to solve everything with patches, i found myself answers that were easier than the solutions they provide me, i dont know if they are aware that most of the time, they are helping people in running process?, so why they just keep asking to reboot computers or upgrade software when most of the time is just basic troubleshoot that keeps the process running. I dont know if the support people get some kind of training, if not, they just should throw them to the real life work field.

  16. Joe M.

    The problem I see in this forum is that some of the complaints are quite unreasonable. I can’t believe the dude talking about “Stupid people from India”. For starters, the support center HAPPENS TO BE in Cleveland. (I got a guy from somewhere in Europe at one point, but so what?, he got me out the bind I was in.)

    Others complain about their database documents, or their software downloads requiring a paid contract. How else can they pay for their support organization? How do they pay their Engineers to design and improve the software?

    Yes, they can stand some improvement, but take my word for it: They are the best support organization I ever had to deal with. My heart goes out to those guys in Rockwell, they must take a lot of flak!, Let’s cut them a break, shall we?

  17. Bob D

    @Joe M Do you work for them?
    Bull on any kind of support from Rockwell. We pay upwards of $80K for our support contract, and they have yet to resolve ANY issue.

    Add to that, that they keep pushing out broken software for ridiculous prices…The Rockwell Software monkeys can’t write functional code at all for anything. Even the flagship of the line, Logix (now Studio and slower) 5000 is still buggy AFTER 26+ REVISIONS.

    FTView is total garbage, and don’t even get me started on the “Integrated Architecture Tools”. Who in the world would put out such a broken tool chain, that doesn’t even have support for MOST OF THEIR OWN PRODUCTS? They even have the NERVE to to put a price tag on Architect! Seriously? The crummiest app on the stupidest smartphone in the world is lightyears better than Architect.

    The Allen Bradley Hardware is fine, but they need to shut down the software division, fire everyone, and contract out to a company with a clue.


Comments are closed.