Prior to the start of the 2014 Software Global Customer Conference, Schneider Electric hosted a daylong Partner Symposium for its product, technology and integration partners. A keynote speaker from Alliance Partner Microsoft and technical sessions with Wonderware subject matter experts gave partners a deep dive into the company’s products and solutions. Strategic Software Partners and Endorsed SI partners also had booths in the Expo area during the main conference. In turn, Schneider Electric and its customers gain additional functionality and support that integrates well with their software.
According to Scott Kiser, director of global software partner program for Schneider Electric, one of the initiatives for this year is to educate existing partners about new opportunities they will have as part of Schneider Electric’s bigger ecosystem.
“Schneider Electric recognizes the value our partner programs create for our customers,” says Kiser. The company’s software conference is just one part of bringing partners “from the world of Wonderware software to the larger, more diverse product sets of Schneider Electric.” In the short term that means new branding and programs linking Schneider Electric with Wonderware. Going forward it means increasing the number of offerings available for partner-built solutions.
“Partners don’t have the luxury of learning on the job,” said Kiser. “So we’re driving competency very hard. This year, we’ll be expanding certification programs and offering new competency programs and new online webinars and online training. Today we have over 3,500 certified partner employees with 9,000 certifications.”
An example of how users win when Schneider Electric names or trains a partner can be found in its most recent partner-built solution: Simio, LLC is providing Wonderware MES scheduling capabilities.
“When it comes to MES and optimizing production activities, scheduling technology is the jewel on top of an MES solution that a lot of people overlook. This was an area where we wanted to deliver more customer value,” said Tom Troy, director of Operations and Asset Management for Schneider Electric. “We felt this was a good approach to extending optimization capabilities. We’re also complementary to them as they go to market. As they sell simulation, planning and scheduling, we’re providing a tool so their customers can do better.”
Simio 3-D simulation-based planning and scheduling software gives Wonderware MES 2014 software users improved capabilities to determine the best detailed production schedule. It allows asking what-if questions against a model that takes into account equipment availability, raw materials, production capacity and labor resources.
“It allows our customers to easily add a real-time scheduling component, using a rules-based engine and deep simulation. It’s an offering unmatched in the market today,” said Troy.
Simio differs from traditional scheduling software because it provides planners and master schedulers "a quick way to see their chances or probability percentage of hitting delivery and cost targets, especially after an unexpected situation occurs,” said Dennis Pegden, chief executive officer for Simio. "For example if an important order arrives or a machine breaks down, or workers don’t show up or supplies are late, users can re-run their schedule in minutes, taking into account the recent situation to find the best new production schedule scenario."
“One of the key area that an MES handles is exception management," explains Troy. “We all know the chaos that occurs on the plant floor. Labor, tooling, etc.—there’s always something going wrong. MES brings some order to the chaos. Simio is even better at exception management.”
The 3D visuals offer particular benefits for quicker decision making. Because other simulation-based solutions are heavily data-oriented, and users can have difficulty relating to that data, said Pegden.
Rich Ritchie, vice president of sales and marketing for Simio, says, “What we hear repeatedly from prospects is, ‘We like your simulation-based scheduling. We tried it before. But we’re not ready to use it because we can’t get the data needed to drive your models.’” Wonderware MES software delivers the real-time production data in an object-based structure that makes models easier to build.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter final assembly line is modeled in Simio—but Simio's capabilities are just as useful to food and beverage companies, Ritchie added.