Harnessing distributed intelligence to deliver efficiency and resiliency
The immediate impression of Schneider Electric is a company that is thriving in the transformation of the electric power industry. Having established the Smart Grid Laboratory at Ryerson University along with a host of other initiatives, Schneider Electric Canada is acting simultaneously as pioneers of new technology and practical problem-solvers for a wide range of energy customers.
Susan Uthayakumar, the Country President of Schneider Electric Canada, outlines a set of historical- “mega-trends” — industrialization, urbanization and digitization -- positioning the company at the center of promising new opportunities for business, environmental protection and energy resiliency. With a long history of developing, building and supporting customer-owned energy systems, the company has always been focused on finding solutions that deliver efficiency, reliability and resiliency for its customers. Now, considering the growing availability and capability of connected digital technologies and Internet of Things (IoT), the opportunities for even more effective and efficient solutions are increasing. Ms. Uthayakumar cites the company’s term “3D+E” to characterize their key directions. “3D+E” refers to the simultaneous interrelated processes of digitization, de-carbonization, decentralization and electrification.
The Schneider Electric brand is unmistakably bold and future-oriented. The company’s mission is to create technologies, software and services that improve the way its customers manage and automate their operations.
Recognizing long term trends extending well beyond the energy sector, the company stresses, “At Schneider, we believe access to energy is a basic human right.” Understanding that everyone requires energy and power to thrive in the world, the company aims to be a part of the solution with the work being done through the Schneider Electric foundation, providing energy to remote areas of the world with limited access.
Background and history
Schneider Electric SE is a multinational corporation with a multi-hub organizational structure. A French company by heritage, it has three major global hubs including Paris, Boston, and Hong Kong, all places where global leadership sits. With operating revenue of €25.72 billion in 2018, Schneider Electric ranks among the Fortune Global 500, publicly traded on the Euronext Exchange, and is a component of the Euro Stoxx 50 stock market index. As a leader in “Digital Transformation” the company traces its history back to 1836 when it began as a manufacturer that developed a number of enterprises including businesses in iron, steel, shipbuilding and armaments. Over the years it grew and changed significantly, acquiring and spinning off numerous companies. Its focus on the electrical industry became more pronounced in the 1980s. For example, it acquired Télémécanique in 1988 and Square D in 1991. In 2015 and 2016 it refocused on IoT, sustainability and efficiency, introducing its IoT-enabled architecture and platform, EcoStruxure.
While there are many competitors in the DER sector, Schneider Electric’s long-standing focus on medium and low voltage applications, automation and a presence in the manufacturing sector, gives it a unique vantage point into this growing field, while remaining grounded in a range of medium and low voltage operating assets.
Schneider Electric has a large profile in Canada. It employs 2,700 people and operates 5 manufacturing facilities, jointly generating more than $1 billion in annual revenue. The Canadian operations include several cross-functional facilities providing sales and support services from 24 offices. In addition, through its network of distributors, Schneider products are available at hundreds of distribution outlets in Canada. In North America, the numbers are correspondingly larger: Schneider has 33,000 employees in North America. Globally, the company has 130,000 employees in 100 countries.
MoveUP, the agency that has represented employees at Schneider since 1968, says, “Schneider Electric leads in electrical distribution, industrial control and automation products, systems and services, and the only electrical manufacturer dedicated solely to the distribution and control of electricity.”
The EcoStruxure product line
One of the most promising offerings from Schneider Electric is EcoStruxure, a digitally enabled platform that helps customers manage a large number of connected products and systems. Representing “Innovation at Every Level,” EcoStruxure is described as “Leading the Digital Transformation of Energy Management & Automation.” It provides a digital plug-and-play backbone to connect operational and informational technologies, allowing users to “leverage every benefit of a connected IoT system.”
EcoStruxure is open source, meaning that project developers and installers can easily update the software, adapt it to their own circumstances, and if desired, integrate new products into an energy project running EcoStruxure. This feature is likely to be critical in keeping the EcoStruxure platform in a leading position as new technical options become available to expand the capabilities of a given installation.
The company says, “EcoStruxure is Schneider Electric’s architecture to deliver on the real promise of the Internet of Things: connectivity that turns data into operational and energy efficiency across all levels of an enterprise.” In more specific terms, “It is the digital backbone connecting Operational Technology (OT) solutions with the latest in IT technology to unlock trapped value in operations and tap into the true potential of the IoT.” The EcoStruxure architecture and its interoperable technology platform bring together energy, automation, software and analytics. Together they are designed to provide enhanced value around safety, reliability, efficiency, sustainability and connectivity.
Schneider Electric promises that this kind of advancement “opens up the digital world to users across key end markets, enabling them to be competitive in today’s IoT economy.”
What the future holds
Schneider Electric articulates a strategy that seems well-attuned to the tenor of the times. Its focus on technology and solutions that enable more and more decisions to be made at the consumer level, maximizing the range of choices available to the consumer, seems designed to support and prosper through periods of disruption and transformation. In addition, its emphasis on using AI to deliver and enhance those choices opens further untold possibilities. At the same time, the company acts as a continual proponent for “appropriate development of DER,” a priority that appears to be in tune with the times, if not a little ahead of the game.
It seems like much of the world has only recently woken up to the potential for the kind of technology solutions in which Schneider Electric has long specialized. With its enduring emphasis on medium and low voltage technology, while simultaneously maintaining extensive awareness of the bulk power system, Schneider may be almost uniquely positioned to thrive in and provide solutions for an energy transition featuring wide deployment of DERs. It is fortunate to have built capabilities in a market where information technology, automation, efficiency and energy systems have always been tied together, at a time when the interaction between these fields is showing great promise.
Recently recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2019) and Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2019), Schneider Electric Canada is active in employee development and community programming including Habitat for Humanity and the Good Shepherd Christmas Marketplace. The top employer recognition came from Eluta.ca, a job search engine that specializes in finding new jobs directly from employer websites.
The company’s extensive worldwide network of engineers, system designers and automation specialists supported by manufacturing functions is positioned at the heart of what many people believe is the nexus of the most promising areas of technical innovation in the electric power field.
Combining long standing expertise from the fields of industrial and building automation, manufacturing and software, it appears that Schneider Electric is almost uniquely positioned to deliver solutions for customers hoping to move into a DER-oriented future with high degrees of local control, electronic interconnectedness, efficiency and sustainability.
The future looks bright.
For more information, see https://www.se.com/ca/
For more information on EcoStruxure: