Rockwell Automation, Inc. (NYSE: ROK), is an American provider of industrial automation and information products. Brands include Allen-Bradley and Rockwell Software.
Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Rockwell Automation employs over 22,000 people and has customers in more than 80 countries worldwide. The Fortune 500 company reported $6.35 billion in sales in 2013.
Rockwell Automation traces its origins to 1903 and the formation of the Compression Rheostat Company, founded by Lynde Bradley and Dr. Stanton Allen with an initial investment of $1000.
In 1904, 19-year-old Harry Bradley joined his brother in the business.
The company's first patented product was a carbon disc compression-type motor controller for industrial cranes. The crane controller was demonstrated at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.
In 1909, the company was renamed the Allen-Bradley Company.
Allen-Bradley expanded rapidly during World War I in response to government-contracted work. Its product line grew to include automatic starters and switches, circuit breakers, relays and other electric equipment.
In 1914, Fred Loock established the company's first sales office in New York.
Upon co-founder Stanton Allen's death in 1916, Lynde Bradley became president. Harry Bradley was appointed vice president and attorney Louis Quarles was named corporate secretary.
In 1918 Allen-Bradley hired its first female factory worker, Julia Bizewski Polczynski, who was promoted to foreman the following year.
During the 1920s, the company grew its miniature rheostat business to support the burgeoning radio industry. By the middle of this decade, nearly 50 percent of the company’s sales were attributed to the radio department. The decade closed with record company sales of $3 million.
By 1932, the Great Depression had taken its toll and the company posted record losses. Amid growing economic pressure, Allen-Bradley reduced its workforce from 800 to 550 and cut wages by 50 percent. To lessen the financial burden, Lynde and Harry Bradley implemented a unique program: the company replaced employees’ lost wages with preferred stock. Eventually, the company bought back all stock at six percent interest.
Throughout this period, Lynde Bradley supported an aggressive research and development approach intended to "develop the company out of the Depression." Lynde Bradley's R&D strategy was successful. By 1937, Allen-Bradley employment had rebounded to pre-Depression levels and company sales reached an all-time high of nearly $4 million.
Following the death of Lynde Bradley in 1942, Harry Bradley became company president and Fred Loock was promoted to vice president. The Lynde Bradley Foundation, a charitable trust, was established with Lynde Bradley's assets. The foundation's first gift of $12,500 was made to Milwaukee's Community Fund, predecessor of the United Way.
World War II fueled unprecedented levels of production, with 80 percent of the company's orders being war-related. Wartime orders were centered on two broad lines of products – industrial controls to speed production and electrical components or "radio parts" used in a wide range of military equipment.
Allen-Bradley expanded its facilities numerous times during the 1940s to meet war-time production needs. With Fred Loock serving as president and Harry Bradley as chairman, the company began a major $1 million, two-year expansion project in 1947. The company completed additional expansions at its Milwaukee facilities in the 1950s and 1960s, including the Allen-Bradley clock tower. The clock tower has since been renamed, and is known today as the Rockwell Automation clock tower.
Harry Bradley died in 1965. Fred Loock retired in 1967 and died in 1973.
During the 1970s, the company expanded its production facilities and markets and entered the 1980s as a global company. With president J. Tracy O'Rourke (1981–89) at the helm, the company introduced a new line of programmable logic controllers, the PLC-3, in 1981.
In 1985 privately owned Allen-Bradley set a new fiscal record with sales of $1 billion. On February 20, 1985 Rockwell International purchased Allen-Bradley for $1.651 billion; this was the largest acquisition in Wisconsin's history to date. For all intents and purposes, Allen-Bradley took over Rockwell's industrial automation division.
The 1990s featured continued technology development, including the company's launch of its software business, Rockwell Software (1994), the Logix control platform (1997) and the Integrated Architecture system (1999).
During this decade, Rockwell International also acquired a power systems business, composed of Reliance Electric and Dodge. These two brands, combined with control systems brands Allen-Bradley and Rockwell Software, were marketed as Rockwell Automation.
In 1998, Keith Nosbusch was named president of Rockwell Automation Control Systems. Rockwell International Corporation headquarters was moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin the same year.
In 2002, Rockwell International split into two companies. The industrial automation division became Rockwell Automation, while the avionics division became Rockwell Collins. The split was structured so that Rockwell Automation was the legal successor of Rockwell International, while Rockwell Collins was the spin-off. Rockwell Automation retains Rockwell International's stock price history, and continues to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "ROK".
Keith Nosbusch was named chief executive officer in 2004.
In 2007, Rockwell Automation sold the Power Systems division for $1.8 billion to Baldor Electric Company to focus on its core competencies in automation and information technology.
In April 2016, it was announced that Keith Nosbusch would be replaced by Blake Moret, effective July 1, 2016. Nosbusch would remain with Rockwell Automation as chairman. Moret was previously the senior vice president of the Control Products and Solutions segment of the company.
Rockwell Automation operates its business through two segments – Architecture and Software, and Control Products and Solutions.
Rockwell Automation covers control systems, industrial control components, information software, motor control devices, sensing devices, network technology, safety technology, and industrial security.
Rockwell Automation has engineered systems that range from custom-designed, bundled components to large, turnkey system integration projects. Services include repair, asset management consulting and remote support centers and training.