Schneider Electric: Operations and Asset Management Improved by Integration

Oct. 1, 2014
The Software business of Schneider Electric, which encompasses the company’s operations management, asset management and operations integration product lines, is combining technologies to enable better data-driven decisions.

Schneider Electric made a bold move last year when it acquired Invensys. The goal: to become a world-class software company. Less than a year later, the company is revealing how the people and products from the two companies are coming together. In a talk with journalists and analysts at the 2014 Software Global Customer Conference in Orlando, Fla., Rob McGreevy, the company’s vice president of information, operations and asset management, discussed the new Software business of Schneider Electric, which encompasses its operations management, asset management and operations integration product lines. He also announced the company’s latest acquisition, which adds focused capabilities for the power generation industry.

“We’ve always been a software company. We put ourselves on the map with HMI visualization,” said McGreevy about the Wonderware software portfolio acquired in January. “Then we added execution. We added capabilities to control workflow to people. The next thing is smarter systems [and] predictive analytics—recommendations for action based on real-time and historical data.”

For MES and operations management, including MES for batch processes, the trend is toward model-driven tools that are dynamic, easy to configure and scalable to any plant size or geography. “We’ve never had more multisite roll-outs of MES than we have now,” he said.

Operations management software used to be custom-coded, but now it’s configured, McGreevy said. “We’ve made it easier for customers establish their business rules, store them in objects and then enforce them throughout an organization through dynamic user interfaces,” he added.

Wonderware MES 2014 offers a new web-based client and line performance monitoring, as well as advanced recipe and formulation management capabilities for better end-to-end product lifecycle management. Integration with Wonderware Skelta BPM workflow software enables model-driven MES, enforcing production rules and manufacturing procedures.

For cost-effective data management and reporting, Wonderware Online brings a suite of Big Data features in a SaaS package, complemented with a variety of mobile and web-based clients for on-demand analysis.

For food and beverage customers, the company’s new Recipe Manager Plus product speeds product changeover time and reduces the cost complexity associated with new product introductions. Additional capabilities improve food safety, quality and compliance-related activities.

The Avantis asset management product line “uses the same model-based execution engines and applies them to asset management. The same flexibility that an MES customer needs is now available for the asset management community,” McGreevy said.

New workflow functionality provides customers with closed-loop work process management, along with escalation and system of record capture of processes, procedures and activities. A plug-in for Esri’s geographic information system allows customers to view Avantis.PRO information in a map and manage work based on physical locations.

To meet the need for lower cost of ownership and deployment, Avantis.PRO software has also been qualified to operate on virtual machines hosted within the Microsoft Azure environment using the Platform-as-a-Service hosting model.

McGreevy also announced Schneider Electric’s intent to acquire InStep, a Chicago-based company with three products used primarily in the power industry:

  • eDNA, an enterprise data historian.

  • PRiSM, an asset performance, diagnostics, and condition management tool.

  • EBS, an energy management offering that helps facilities, primarily universities, reduce utility costs..

“InStep provides predictive asset analytics for the utility industry,” said McGreevy. PRiSM, for example, provides centralized fleet-wide monitoring that provides early warning about equipment failure. The national grids of the United Kingdom, India and Singapore are all managing data from smart devices to their grid using InStep.

InStep doesn’t have a mobile client, but plans are to “plug our Wonderware Smart Glance mobile reporting software directly into eDNA and PRiSM to deliver a power- and energy-specific mobile dashboard,” said McGreevy.

“InStep becomes part of a great software organization, and customers gain access to all the tools we have,” said McGreevy.

This is similar to how users of existing Schneider Electric HMI SCADA software are benefiting from Wonderware technology. Convergence and integration is enabling data-driven operations. It is also driving the convergence of information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT), McGreevy said. “This is a Big Data thing. It’s an IoT [Internet of things] thing. It’s a great extension of what we already do.

“As we optimize business systems, it is no surprise that [operations are] becoming data-driven,” he added.

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