Accelerating the Digitalization Journey Through an Ecosystem

By Sharada Prahladrao

Industry Trends

Nathalie Marcotte, President, Process Automation Business, Schneider Electric spoke to ARC’s Craig Resnick, Vice President Consulting, during the ARC Industry Forum in Orlando last month about how the value of automation will change to keep in step with the digital economy, new business models, and an ecosystem of digital technology.  Nathalie said that it’s an exciting time right now with the company’s EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS System and the Ecostruxure Tricon-X well-positioned to help customers in their digitalization journeys.  This blog presents some of the highlights and quotes of their discussion.  You can watch the full interview here or on YouTube


What the Customers Expect

It is obvious that the economy's changing, it's becoming a digital economy; and with that the market is changing too.  The industrial world is seeing the influx of digitally savvy IT players and a lot of the technology around virtual reality, the Cloud, and machine learning.  “So we have to think of new business models, how to approach our clients, and how to put all of it together,” said Nathalie.

The company’s fundamental belief for the industry of the future is that there's going to be a change in the value of automation, or how we see automation.  The company believes that they have to start being more open on the automation side, so that the customers and end users can benefit from an ecosystem of digital technology.  

Role of Cybersecurity in Digitalization

Cybersecurity is a key  tool in the digitalization journey, explained Nathalie.  Customers and suppliers have to collaborate to enable, not only the cybersecurity aspect, but the digitalization process too.  The company has even been working with some of their competitors to create the ISA consortium as a forum to share more about cybersecurity best practices and information, so that all can be in synch and mature together.  This would enable the industry to achieve their collective goal of digitalization.

Partner Ecosystem

“Being open and looking at openness, it's in our DNA,” said Nathalie.  The company is leading in the 61499 standards, which decouples the software and the hardware, providing an open environment for better adoptions.  Schneider Electric is part of the Open group, co-chairing the OPAF, and part of the PCL and the OPC Foundation.  The company is looking at various business models and how the openness facilitates the Ecostruxure exchange, enabling digitalization.  Schneider Electric’s Edge Organization invests in small startups, to enable a bigger ecosystem of small companies to begin their digital journey.  “So we've been working on many fronts: open on technology, open on business models, and open on various investments,” said Nathalie.

The Schneider Electric Exchange was launched about a year ago to collaborate globally with partners and smaller companies in the operations technology (OT) space.  This is an industrial sharing platform, creating an ecosystem to share applications that solves problems in a specific location/industry, so that it can be used elsewhere, accelerating the digital journey.  There are over 50,000 registered people on the exchange now, exchanging problem-solving applications.

Talking about the Human Element

Schneider Electric has deployed new technologies in their existing factories, and these have been adopted by the workers who realize that their work is changing for the better.  “Their role is not being eliminated, but they are now optimizing the process as opposed to just doing manual labor tasks.  And they get more tools to take better decisions,” said Nathalie.  Schneider Electric has been working with the World Economic Forum to assess these factories.  Implementation has been done in multiple Schneider Electric factories, and they are actually seeing better engagements from their employees and increased productivity.  The fear of automation has been removed; it’s more about tools for collaboration as opposed to a person’s replacement.

Concluding the interview, Craig said that ARC has noticed Schneider Electric’s enhanced culture of safety and how the human element and technology have worked in tandem to accelerate the digital journey.  ARC Advisory Group looks forward to following Nathalie in her new role and getting frequent updates from her regarding Schneider Electric’s continued digital transformation journey.



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