"Make the most of your energy" was the theme of Schneider Electric OEM Initi@tive held in the principality of Monaco on Dec. 3-4. The company exceeded its anticipated total of 700 customers by more than 200 during the two-day event that included keynotes, classes and an exhibition. The key announcement was the unveiling of a new automation platform. Executive Vice President and leader of the Automation Group Michel Crochon challenged attendees to "remove preconceived ideas about who we are and what we do."
The Automation Group at Schneider has taken a two-pronged approach to reinvigorating its business. First is an organization based on developing expertise centers in specific market areas—including packaging, material handling, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), hoisting (cranes), lifting (elevators, escalators) and textiles. The second prong has involved the two-year process of developing a new automation platform that is centered on a software platform that can be deployed equally on four hardware platforms—logic control, motion control, human-machine interface (HMI) control and AC drive control.
Showing the way
Schneider Electric executives stressed that they were taking the opportunity of this gathering to tell the company’s new story and show the path to original equipment manufacturer (OEM) solutions. Challenges facing OEMs include innovation, machine performance improvement, total machine cost reduction and shortening time to market. Schneider Electric's response is to reduce complexity in machine design, development, operation and maintenance. The three pillars of the OEM solution are flexible machine control; tested, validated, documented architectures and function blocks; and end-to-end services and support.
A single software application for programming and configuration called SoMachine that targets any of four hardware bases provides flexible machine control. SoMachine provides one tool, one connection, one project file and one download to develop, configure, program and commission the company’s machine control system. It uses open standards such as IEC 61131, promulgated by the International Electrotechnical Commission, and Field Device Type/Device Type Manager (FDT/DTM) technology. The hardware targets include logic controllers (a new generation of programmable logic controllers or PLCs), drives controllers (AC drives with embedded logic control), "HMI controllers," or human-machine interface computers with built-in logic controllers, and motion controllers with built-in logic control engines. Initial products will be available beginning in the first quarter of 2009 with others rolling out later in the year.
Schneider engineers have developed a number of custom function blocks for use within SoMachine that have been tested and validated in Schneider laboratories to allow customers to more quickly develop applications.
Service and support
In order to help its OEM customers become more competitive in world markets, Schneider has developed four service and support offerings to be launched in the first quarter of 2009, with a planned major update in December 2009. The first is application design support to develop an optimized automation solution. The second assists customers in designing and assembling a machine control panel according to the UL 508A standard from Underwriters Laboratories Inc. Schneider will make its financial expertise available through conferences, training or customized studies to help customers access international markets. Finally, Schneider can offer its global service presence to help OEMs support their equipment wherever its final destination may be.