Schneider Electric Innovation Summit: Connecting Industrial Ecosystems

LNS Research attended our first Schneider Electric Innovation Summit since 2019 last month. The event was held at the Paris Expo Center, and about 3,000 attendees were hosted, 2,000 of whom were customers and partners. While the attendance was down from the pre-Covid levels of 4,000-5,000, it was great to see so many Schneider enthusiasts come together.

The quality of the event was impressive, with expo halls, a massive 300-foot video wall, choreographed dancers, professional catering, breakout theaters, and comfortable areas for casual conversations. The positive atmosphere showed that the 188-year-old giant is still going strong.

Schneider Electric CEO, Peter Herweck’s Keynote
Schneider Electric CEO, Peter Herweck’s Keynote

Sustainability is at the core of Schneider’s culture and strategy. This message has remained unaltered for seven decades, and the vision is still “Sustainability = Electric + Digital.” While other companies talk about sustainability, Schneider Electric has it in its blood. Everything at the event was environmentally friendly and recyclable, living up to Schneider’s culture.

Like most companies that LNS Research is working with, Schneider utilizes an industry strategy to deliver value to its customers. The primary focus areas are “Industry,” “Data Centers,” “Grid/Infrastructure,” “Buildings,” and “Homes.” With LNS Research’s focus on Industrial Operations, we primarily spent time with the “Industry” team, which is focused on manufacturing. Schneider is boldly taking on two of the biggest industrial challenges of our time with “EcoStruxure Automation Expert” and “CONNECT” to solve the problem of software-defined automation and the unified industrial ecosystem.

Schneider’s focus on software-defined automation sets them apart from most large automation vendors. Schneider represents the company that invented the modern PLC with the release of Modicon 084 in 1969. Today, 55 years later, Schneider still uses the Modicon brand for their PLCs.

EcoStruxure Automation Expert has two main components: First is a shared source universal runtime engine managed by, and second, is a Schneider-branded configuration environment that can program Schneider and third-party PLCs, PACs, and DCSs that are using the runtime engine. Universal Automation, founded by Schneider, is an independent, not-for-profit association providing a technology enabler based on the IEC 61499 standard, which defines how to design hardware-independent distributed applications using “plug and produce” software components.

It is rare to see a large company willing to disrupt itself with the risk of commoditizing the industry. Several forward-leaning automation suppliers have become members of the organization and built hardware that can host the runtime engine. Schneider supports the runtime on several of their controllers but requires the new dPAC module. While this approach is welcome, it is not without risk for Schneider. We will be following the user adoption closely to measure the success.

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxture Automation Expert Demonstration
Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxture Automation Expert Demonstration

Schneider Electric acquired AVEVA in January 2023 after several transactions reaching back to 2014. AVEVA has been developing CONNECT for several years. The software was recently rebranded from AVEVA Connect to just CONNECT, representing its central role within the Schneider ecosystem. CONNECT is positioned as an Industrial Intelligence platform intended to fill a critical need for most manufacturing companies looking for a unified cloud-based approach to store, share, interact, and analyze industrial data. LNS Research refers to this offering as an Industrial Application Platform in our IX Reference Architecture.

CONNECT has a broad vision of managing the whole plant lifecycle of design, build, operate, and optimize. AVEVA’s CEO Caspar Hertzberg described the struggles of handling the 147 Zettabytes of industrial data and turning it into valuable actions. CONNECT aims to make the cost of curiosity low, allowing users to navigate and explore the contextualized data of models and Generative AI through an open, agnostic, and unified experience.

While CONNECT is still early in its lifecycle, Schneider reports that the system has 4,000 customers and 17,000 monthly users. Early adopters include ZGlobal, a California-based energy consulting firm and solutions provider, and HENN, an automotive parts supplier.

AVEVA CEO, Casper Hertberg
AVEVA CEO, Casper Hertberg

Several things were different from previous Schneider and AVEVA events. We were happy to see that the Industrial Metaverse was not mentioned once. It looks like that fad is over and we are back focusing on the real world again. AVEVA is positioned as a full member of the Schneider family; their presence at the event and on the stage was clear, and we believe this will serve Schneider well. Schneider’s message on AI was mature, without the hype we sometimes see from the market. Schneider is taking a conservative and responsible approach while investing heavily in AI, specifically GenAI.

We like Schneider’s strategy and direction combined with their willingness to invest. Both EcoStruxure Automation Expert and CONNECT could be industry-changing products if successful. As with all game-changing products, there is a need for the products and the surrounding messaging to mature, and we are looking forward to seeing Schneider progress on this journey.

It is critical that Schneider gain momentum for both EcoStruxure Automation Expert and CONNECT. These products represent major transitions for the company, and spending too much time in the in-between state is risky. Both Schneider and AVEVA have existing products that EcoStruxure Automation Expert and CONNECT will replace. The Software-Defined Automation and Industrial Data Hub markets are developing rapidly, and the company is exposing itself to competitive bids if it cannot respond quickly with a competitive product.

Our recommendations for manufacturers looking for Software-Defined Automation and Industrial Ecosystem solutions are to evaluate Schneider Electric’s offerings while observing the maturity level of the products. The company has a strong heritage in both these areas and is likely to have the domain expertise that can lead to success.

As we release this blog post, we are reminded of the rapidly changing industrial software ecosystem. The Wall Street Journal recently published Schneider Electric in Talks to Take Control of Bentley Systems, likely merging AVEVA with the NASDAQ traded company for a majority ownership position. Stay tuned for more about that to come later.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more, we recommend reading the following:

The Evolution of the Industrial Transformation (IX) Reference Architecture


All entries in this Industrial Transformation blog represent the opinions of the authors based on their industry experience and their view of the information collected using the methods described in our Research Integrity. All product and company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

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