Manufacturing Technology: The Interview

Manufacturing Technology: The Interview
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Jimmy Koh, Global Marketing Manager, Component Class Drives. Rockwell Automation talks to Asia Manufacturing News about the PowerFlex 523 drive.


AMN:Describe the PowerFlex 523 drive. Tell us about the design elements. What are the key features? What is the unique selling proposition for this drive? What is Rockwell AutomationÕs positioning strategy? Where does it fit into the PowerFlex family of drives?

JK: The PowerFlex 523 is part of our new PowerFlex 520 series of Compact AC drives.

In March 2013, we launched the PowerFlex 525 AC drive which was very well accepted by the market. In October this year, we launched the new economical PowerFlex 523 AC drive, with flexible features that help users be more competitive. PowerFlex 523 AC drives are ideal for builders of simple, stand-alone machines and balance user needs for ‘just enough’ control with a design that lowers the total cost to design, develop and deliver machines. On the other hand, the PowerFlex 525 AC drives are ideal for networked machines requiring more motor control options, standard safety and EtherNet/IP communications.

The PowerFlex 520 series of AC drives is truly dedicated to global drive users. Whilst performing our voice of customer activities, customers clearly indicated two distinct needs. Stand-alone machine builders wanted ‘just enough’ motor control and emphatically shared the need for features that ease configuration and speed installation. This is where their profitability is most affected, and we designed the PowerFlex 523 drive to meet those needs.

 Secondly, we have another segment of drive users around the world telling us that they want drives that deliver more flexible control, offer better communication, and help them simplify startup. This is where our PowerFlex 525 AC drives play an important role catering to this group of users.

 As such, our new drive portfolio is designed to give customers the performance they need, whilst helping to lower their total cost to design, develop and deliver machines.

AMN:What is the value proposition to customers who buy this drive? What are the key benefits that users will enjoy most? How can the PowerFlex 523 increase productivity, save money and energy, maximize system performance and reduce time to design and deliver machines?

The Interview PIC JK: For the PowerFlex 520 series of AC drives, we have common core values including an innovative modular design, ease of configuration and installation flexibility to help customers lower their total cost to design, develop and deliver machines.

One distinct feature of the PowerFlex 520 Series of drives is the modular design that has a removable control module and power module. Customers can separate the PowerFlex 523 modules and simultaneously install and wire the power module, whilst configuring the control module. This capability can help reduce the time to get their machines up and running.

Whilst the power module is being wired into a machine, engineers can connect the control module to a computer and with a standard USB cable, download drive-configuration files and flash firmware using a transfer application onboard the control module. The control module does not require power other than that provided via the USB; we call this MainsFreeª programming.

 Besides using a standard USB connection for uploading and downloading drive-configuration files, users can have an easier configuration where they can programme the drive through its built-in human interface module (HIM), which displays data on the drive’s LCD with scrolling QuickView text and detailed explanations of parameters and other codes. The HIM also has multiple language options to address global needs.

 Knowing that users can spend quite a bit of time on programming to suit different applications, the PowerFlex 520-Series of AC drives comes with a unique AppView and CustomView tools to help speed configuration by providing groups of parameters for common applications and by allowing users to save their settings to new parameter groups. These tools can be easily accessed via the HIM, as well as configuration software tools.

PowerFlex 523 AC drives offer just enough motor control for applications that need simple motor control. Using Connected Components Workbench software from Rockwell Automation also helps speed drive configuration and further reduces development time with online and offline configuration, AppView and CustomView groups, and startup wizards. Consequently, Machine builders gain more time to focus on designing and improving a machineÕs competitiveness.

For more sophisticated networked machines, builders can take advantage of an optional dual-port EtherNet/IP adapter for the PowerFlex 523 AC drive. This module supports ring topologies and provides device-level ring (DLR) functionality, which can help provide network resiliency and drive machine availability. Its ring topologies can remove the need for an external switch and reduce necessary cabling. Adding a dual-port EtherNet/IP adapter to a PowerFlex 523 AC drive provides automatic device configuration, which saves time by automatically downloading configuration files when a drive is replaced.

 There is a lot of installation flexibility with the PowerFlex 523 AC drive. These drives only require 50 mm (2 inches) of clearance on the top and bottom when installing into a cabinet and this smaller clearance can help customers reduce the panel space. Drives can also be installed in horizontal or vertical side-by-side orientations that also help with panel space.

 AMN: Which industry sectors will benefit most from the PowerFlex 523? Who are your key target customers?

JK: The PowerFlex 523 is suitable for a wide range of applications, including conveyors, material handling, compressors, fans and pumps from the Food and Beverage, Tire, Material Handling, Waste and Waste Water, Automotive, Textile and Fiber, Industrial Pump, and Fan industries.

 AMN: Who are the competitors to the PowerFlex 525? What are the key advantages of the PowerFlex 525 compared to its competitors?

 JK: Rather than naming our competitors, we can only say that within today’s global compact drive market space, there is no other drive available that has all of the functionality and capabilities that the PowerFlex 520-Series provides.

For example, the innovative modular design that provides greater installation flexibility, the use of standard USB for upload/download drive configuration, the eased configuration with HIM and software tools simplify the next level of configuration for the users applications. Coupled with the wide range of motor control and many standard features standard, such as safety and EtherNet/IP communications, seamless integration into Logix control architectures, the PowerFlex 525 AC drives can help users save money, maximise system performance and reduce time to design and deliver their machines. This value proposition differentiates the PowerFlex 520 series of AC drives from our competitors.

 AMN: Where is Rockwell Automation Asia Pacific’s market growth coming from?

JK: Specific to the compact drive market, we expect to do well in Asia Pacific, especially in China and India. All in all, with the launch of our PowerFlex 520 series of AC drives, we also expect it to do well globally beyond Asia Pacific.


Jimmy Koh is the Global Marketing Manager, for compact AC drives at Rockwell Automation, where he is responsible for the product management and playing a key role in driving growth.

Jimmy has been with the company for seven years and holds several U.S. patents on drive programming and tools. His first major product launch was the PowerFlex4M in 2007 which was very successful and helping the company in gaining market share in the entry level compact drive segment. Before joining the company, he held numerous roles in business management and in sales from various multi-national companies covering the Asia Pacific region. With more than 17 years of experiences and a diverse background in automation and process industry, Jimmy brings a wealth of expertise to his current role.

He is also an active volunteer in charitable causes and is currently the Chairman of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative in the Rockwell Automation Singapore office.

Jimmy holds a master’s degree in business management from Nottingham University, United Kingdom and is a mechanical engineer in his early day. Jimmy is based in Singapore.












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