In the last 20-25 years, global energy management and automation firm Schneider Electric has established itself as a B2B brand in the domestic power sector. It has also been gradually getting into the retail space in the country. Peter Herweck, executive vice-president of industry automation business, Schneider Electric, in an interview with FE’s Anupam Chatterjee shared his insights on trends in industrial automation in the age of digital transformation. He dwelt on issues such as the company’s opportunities in the automation segment, the vision and plans for its commitment in India and how it is helping Indian manufacturing become globally competitive. Excerpts:
What is the company’s perspective on India as a growing market?
The importance of India in terms of market is obviously on the rise. Schneider has made investments of 30 million euro (about `260 crore) annually in the last three years in this country. By 2019-20, the company plans to make India its third largest investment destination globally, with a significant focus gong into automation.
Of course, it would depend on how soon the acquisition of L&T’s electrical and automation business goes through. We have partnered with Singapore’s Temasek Holdings for the acquisition. Right now, we have 24 manufacturing sites which employs about 2,000 personnel. Most of them are in the industrial automation research and development area.
Which factors would drive up the uptake of automation?
Incremental connectivity is helping in the augmentation of automation. More and more data availability, as we see around us, also warrants better data processing capabilities. Here is where we come in. New technologies are disrupting their preceding versions and that calls for congruous upgradations.
For example, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, with increasing uptake of EVs, can majorly disrupt electrical networks. To balance grids in these situations, smart grids become imperative. Automation might be the only way to tackle load management issues.
What are the various categories of automation clients in the country?
The automation industry can be broadly divided into three parts — discreet, processing and hybrid. Automotive makers and part suppliers, which largely comprise players from the small and medium enterprises, form the discreet segment. They play a key role in driving up the demand for automation. The processing section is made of players from the oil and gas, chemical and water resource management industries. A sample segment in the hybrid category would be players from the food and dairy industry.
Which industrial segments are more likely to adapt to automated solutions?
The manufacturing industry, which critically depends on power supply, can get huge help from technologies that can predict power failures or supply quality discrepancies. From our own experience, there has been an 80% fall in maintenance time on an average across the 40 global manufacturing units where Schneider technology has been deployed. For cost-competitive industries like the oil and gas, automation and digitisation helps in cutting costs across all areas. A number of clients in the segment have already profited from using EcoStruxture, which is our IoT-enabled, plug-and-play platform.
Wouldn’t services meant for big-ticket clients restrict the scope of Schneider’s market in India?
At the same time, we have customised products for relatively smaller industries as we don’t want to overwhelm all businesses with larger infrastructure solutions. For example, our ‘profit adviser’ software package can be used with other existing systems, and it can suggest companies on cost saving avenues with equal effectiveness.