Schneider Electric sees the Internet of Things as a way to get to the next level of manufacturing – and the company is calling on its partners to lead the charge in working with customers to implement IoT solutions on the factory floor.
Ravi Gopinath, executive vice president of Schneider Electric, said that as more industrial control systems – including programmable logical controllers and SCADA systems – become digitized so that operators can collect data from them, Schneider Electric will be at the forefront of this newest digital revolution.
"At Schneider Electric we are extremely proud that in this third industrial revolution… the first PLC [programmable logic controller], the first Windows-based HMI [human machine interface], all that has come through the innovation of this team that has worked with our partners and customers," he said.
The industrial market has undergone several revolutions over the past decades – including the emergence of steam and water, electricity and now computing and digital technology, said Schneider Electric.
But as the company begins to see the newest revolution – which involves tools like IoT, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality, Schneider Electric is also creating new innovative tools to keep up with what manufacturing companies are looking for.
"It is coming at a moment of change in the business environment we have rarely seen before, but we have a high degree of confidence in terms of our ability to master the digital future because we have done this before with our partners," said Gopinath.
Partners, for their part, view the Internet of Things as a "means to the end" in trying to get customers to the next step of their "digital journey."
The end goal, argued Michael Grasley, vice president of technology and marketing at Schneider Electric partner Callisto Integration, is not IoT, but "smart manufacturing," where customers' factories are completely digitized, can collect and process data from machines, and most importantly use predictive maintenance solutions.
"IoT, I would argue, is essentially a technological concept; it is not a solution," said Grasley. "What we are trying to achieve is smart manufacturing – that's the vision we're trying to achieve. IoT now allows us to do more, but customers may not be ready. That's why I differentiate between IoT and smart manufacturing. I think IoT is another tool in our toolbox."
Moving forward, Schneider Electric will tap its partners – particularly its community of 4,100 systems integrators who can integrate IoT into existing legacy industrial systems and leverage their knowledge of vertical markets like food and beverage or oil and gas.
"This notion of working together is very central to how we believe we will master this digital future," Gobinath said.