From one small step… Global automation giant celebrates 50 years

Jun 05, 2019

IT IS the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and information. And this year marks a special UK milestone for Rockwell Automation.

The company has begun a series of events to celebrate its 50 years in the UK, all of which have been spent in Milton Keynes.

Mayor Sam Crooks joined staff from the company’s premises in Bletchley and Kiln Farm to start the celebrations with the cutting of a special anniversary cake. Rockwell Automation has been reflecting on its growth and success in the UK since it opened its factory in Bletchley, making switches and push buttons for industry.

It was a couple of months after The Beatles’ last public concert from the top of Apple Corp in London’s Savile Row and just before Apollo 11 set humans on the surface of the moon. The company’s name then was Allen-Bradley, an American-owned but globally recognised trademark, and the move to the fledgling Milton Keynes was its first beyond the USA. 

Now part of Rockwell Automation, the business has expanded from these first small steps outside of North America to operate in more than 80 countries around the world, and is part of the biggest company dedicated to industrial automation.

Far from forgetting its Yesterday, Rockwell Automation still operates a significant presence in Bletchley. Among the employees are staff who still remember the early days of Allen-Bradley in the UK. 

“People and teams make the company,” says remanufacturing operations manager David Gocher, who has worked for the company for 43 years. “A lot of our employees have enjoyed a long tenure. As a company we a have low attrition rate and benefit from retained knowledge due to that rich experience. We have nurtured a customer- and quality-oriented culture, evidence of which I see every day.” 

The average tenure of employment for Rockwell Automation staff at Bletchley is more than 15 years, with the newest member of the team about to celebrate their first full year.

Rockwell Automation’s UK headquarters has been based in Milton Keynes, at Kiln Farm, since the 1990s but Bletchley remains home to its EMEA remanufacturing centre and the European Hub warehouse, part of the customer support and maintenance and consumer goods and heavy industries application centres for Rockwell Automation’s systems and solutions business.

That the Bletchley site remains central to the EMEA operation is fitting for the first location of Allen-Bradley outside the USA. For UK country director Phil Hadfield, the importance of the company’s heritage is central to its vision for “expanding human possibility” around the world. 

“It is fantastic to be marking 50 years in the UK, and I look forward to further celebrations throughout 2019,” he says. “The UK operation proved to Allen-Bradley that it could operate globally and when you look at the company today, that should be a source of immense pride to all those UK employees of Allen-Bradley and Rockwell Automation over the years. 

“I am in no doubt that our continued success is due to the loyal, highly skilled and flexible workforce who meet to our customers’ demands to ensure that that we as a company deliver to our customers’ high expectations. It is these same principles that underpin our efforts to help our customers and the world expand human possibility in the era ahead – the exciting fourth industrial revolution that has so much Rockwell Automation technology at its heart.”

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