We recently attended Schneider Electric’s global innovation summit in Barcelona. While LNS Research is most focused on the industry division, it is very interesting to catch up with Schneider Electric’s overall strategy for efficiency and sustainability across the energy and automation solutions spaces. It is great to see a major energy company like Schneider Electric being so singularly focused on sustainability and for that attitude being driven from the top down and into industries where the emphasis on the planet has sometimes been seen as somewhat less important.
In the past we have sometimes seen Schneider Electric as a rather disjointed company in terms of solutions and message. The energy focused divisions have been leaders in hardware technologies needed in modern power distribution and use, while the industries have been more focused on specific industry solutions, and on software. Change and consistency of message are now much more in sight.
The efficiency message for sustainability focuses on both process and energy efficiency. The main areas of interest to our clients, process and batch manufacturing, are supported by solutions in the field of asset performance, productivity and, of course, sustainability. While this is very laudable, the commonality does not always hold together as we go a bit deeper into solutions. Schneider Electric defines a 3 layer “EcoStruxure” with apps, analytics and services being on top, edge control in the middle and connected products at the lowest, plant, level. However, what actually resides in each layer varies from industry to industry and even to individual solutions. Since the last innovation summit that we attended, real progress has been made in EcoStruxure; now Schneider Electric needs to complete the picture and be willing to define the middle layers (currently edge) in ways that suit each solution.
Since the reverse takeover of AVEVA by Schneider Electric in 2018, the relationship took a while to settle down. Now, we are happy to say, the integration seems to be tight and Schneider Electric is happy to talk of AVEVA as “our software company.” At the summit, our impression was that both sides of the relationship are benefiting. Schneider Electric has access to a first-class process industries software company while AVEVA, including the ex-Schneider Electric software groups, can behave like a software company again with all the dynamism and creativity typical of modern software development.
Of particular interest to your correspondent is the progress made in food & beverage manufacturing based on the Wonderware product suite. Hopefully the results of F&B solutions from sensor to cloud will help to drive more batch and hybrid manufacturing solutions. The strength of business process management (Skelta) along with solid automation and supervisory control (SCADA), and a future in the cloud can be a winning solution — just as we expect great things in the process industries.
Schneider Electric is a large solution provider but also an important discrete manufacturer of its own products. The opportunities in discrete are large, especially considering that the emphasis on sustainability and energy optimization has been lacking at the plant level. Many discrete manufacturers are working towards efficiency in their products while failing to address the environmental impact the development and manufacturing has. Solutions for energy efficiency as well as the more traditional productivity and quality focus is a unique opportunity for Schneider Electric. Hopefully we will soon see this outside Schneider Electric's own plants.
Bringing Industries Together
Schneider Electric’s traditional business model is as a supplier of energy technology to multiple industries. Today much of that technology is delivered as solutions to end markets such as industry, infrastructure, commercial building and homes. The next phase is to deliver more solutions by combining Schneider Electric’s strengths. The best opportunities lie in the combination f energy management and process automation, for example in the oil & gas industry. Schneider Electric’s connected products and energy management solutions are supported by its distributed control systems (Foxboro DCS) and AVEVA online optimization of processes segmented by power monitoring and balancing across an entire site. Solutions like this can not only deliver ROI through multi-industry solutions, but also support the key goal of direct environmental benefit through reduced energy consumption and pollution.
The Schneider Electric Innovation Summit is a success with large crowds (>4000 we believe), excellent key notes, especially from the always inspiring CEO, Jean-Pascal Tricoire. The level of industry maturity and confidence has gone up as the AVEVA/Schneider Electric convergence increasingly delivers benefits. It is great to see an influential global industrial giant taking such a positive stance on sustainability. May it long continue.