Is Schneider Electric committed to software?

October 062014
Is Schneider Electric committed to software?

A post-Invensys-acquisition update

By Rick Zabel, Publisher & Editor

Last week in Orlando, FL, Schneider Electric hosted its first Global Software Customer Conference since it acquired Invensys in January. The conference has its roots as WonderWorld, the former Wonderware company’s own user conference. Over the years, after Invensys acquired Wonderware, the conference evolved into OpsManage, a global event that emphasized all of Invensys’ software, control, and safety offerings. Since Schneider Electric's purchase of Invensys, I have been waiting to hear some news about the integration of the two companies. That news, as it relates to software, was delivered last week at the conference.

In April of this year, Schneider Electric created a new business unit called Global Solutions. Global Solutions is made up of four key offerings. One of those offerings is Software, which will continue to be led by Ravi Gopinath as Executive Vice President. The Software business consists of the legacy Invensys brands—Wonderware, SimSci, and Avantis—as well as Schneider Electric’s Citect, Ampla, and OASyS DNA (Telvent SCADA) software brands, integrated into one business.

In addition to the Software business, Global Solutions consists of the following offerings:

  • Field services and product support applicable to other Schneider Electric product offerings.
  • Segments, activities related to industry-specific and key account level, global sales and after-market customer relationship management.
  • Digital services, which is a basket of offerings that may or may not leverage software. Examples include cyber security risk assessment services and Telvent weather forecasting service.

Global Solutions and its President, Daniel Doimo, will be headquartered in Lake Forest, CA, which has long been the headquarters for Wonderware and the Invensys software business. Doimo stressed that software is a key pillar to Schneider Electric's global strategy. "We invested in software because we have the vision," said Doimo. "We don't want to reinvent the wheel - we want to spin it faster." Schneider Electric’s Global Solutions business will deliver holistic and integrated solutions to its customers. They are committed to tailored solutions for specific industry segments. Doimo and Gopinath believe the more robust, combined solution set offers the most comprehensive portfolio to help its customers achieve operational efficiency. However, Gopinath stressed, "We are always looking for opportunities to strengthen our portfolio through acquisitions."

Improving the user experience and driving additional value are the cornerstones of everything the company does. Gopinath said the software business has and will continue to focus incessantly on improving user experience, even as the customer persona is rapidly changing. Their second focus is interoperability, which is where architecture comes into play.

Software Architecture

At the core of its software solutions, and at the lowest layer of the architecture, is a common platform called Wonderware System Platform. It is the information management framework for all of the company’s software products. It is open, scalable, and secure, and it works across multiple hardware platforms. The second layer consists of applications that perform specific functions, like HMI, historian, MES, asset management, etc.  The third layer encompasses solutions for specific industry segments.

Prior to the Invensys acquisition, Schneider Electric introduced StruxureWare, a unique software platform of integrated applications and suites that delivers visibility into energy and resource use across an organization. The StruxureWare concept and name will be used in the newly combined software business. StruxureWare will be a collection of applications or solutions that are tailored to specific industry use cases.  They will provide specific, unique functions required by industry segments. A few of these StruxureWare offerings have been defined, but they are still early in the process of defining others.

Continued Integration

Before being acquired, Invensys’ software portfolio was organized into four lines of business, including:

  • Design & Simulation
  • Trading, Planning & Scheduling
  • Operations Information, Asset Management, MES
  • HMI and SCADA

The post-acquisition software business had to make only a few changes to incorporate the existing Schneider Electric software portfolio. Citect and OASyS DNA have become a fifth line of business, complementing the company’s existing HMI and SCADA category. Ampla becomes a sixth line of business, complementing existing MES offerings. There is not much overlap in either functionality or geography. Citect was originally headquartered in Australia and therefore has a large market share in that country. A large percentage of the Citect SCADA and Ampla applications are in the mining industry, which has a unique set of functional and operational requirements. This is a geography and industry segment where Wonderware was not very strong.

The software business is committed to the preservation of the customer investments in Citect, Ampla and OASyS DNA.  In fact, they are already undergoing efforts to integrate these products into the architecture and portfolio described above. The goal of this integration is to further enhance operational value to their customers.

Solution delivery

According to Gopinath, the software business is working hard to continually improve their ability to devise solutions for their customers. To achieve this, they continue to channel 13-14% of their revenue into R&D.

The goal is to provide reliable and consistent project experiences and achieve best-in-class competencies, global capacity through the ecosystem, and global support.

The formula for success is a combination of services and support, plus domain experience and best practices, plus partners. Gopinath said, "We do not want to be a service company. We want to enable our system integrators to deliver systems to end customers." Their ecosystem includes 3,500 systems integrators and other partners worldwide, a unique and unmatched asset.

Gopinath acknowledges that they are not perfect. Based on feedback from key customers, they realize they need to work on strategic, solution-based relationships with key customers. Today, this type of relationship is more the exception than the rule. Manufacturing companies are looking for more value from suppliers. They are looking for partners that they can learn from. Customers can and should leverage Schneider Electric's experience and expertise across multiple industry segments.

Conclusion

Is Schneider Electric committed to manufacturing software? The answer is a resounding, "Yes!"

The company is only a few short months into the integration process, but it’s apparent they are committed to the software business. At the conference, I talked with a number of Schneider Electric employees, distributors, and integrators. Everyone is thrilled with the progress so far, and they are optimistic about the future. As a matter of fact, plans for product enhancements and further integration have actually accelerated. There is still considerable work to be done, but Schneider Electric appears to be moving in the right direction -- a direction that will ultimately benefit their customers.

Announcements from the Conference

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