Schneider Electric Executive Interview

  • October 12, 2012
  • Feature
October 2012
By Bill Lydon, Editor
I recently visited the Schneider Electric Industry Business headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina to meet with Clemens Blum, Executive Vice President Industry Business, who is the global leader of Schneider Electric’s Worldwide Industry Business and Mary Ramsey, Senior Vice President of Industry Business.
Clemens Blum has vast industry experience including positions with the Swiss Industrial Group Positec Automation, Berger Lahr, and Schneider Electric Motion Group.  Mary Ramsey assumed the role of Senior Vice President of Schneider Electric’s U.S. Industry Business in 2012, reporting directly to Clemens Blum. Ramsey’s charter is to develop business with machine builders and industrial end users. Ramsey previously served as Senior Vice President of Sales for Schneider Electric’s Europe Industry Business. She has a range of industry experience and has worked for Pro-face America, Matrikon International, Instrinsyc, Intellution, GE Fanuc, and Cincinnati Electrosystems. 
Clemens Blum                                             Mary Ramsey
Sustainability Focus
Clemens Blum discussed how Schneider Electric is taking a more holistic view on operations and helping customers meet energy efficiency and sustainably goals. “We believe we are really moving in the right direction,” said Blum. Mary Ramsey noted that Schneider Electric has made investments in modern technology including open architecture, open platforms, and web services. They recognize that new tools and technologies are needed to accelerate the achievement of sustainability. Blum commented, “We talk about sustainability and energy efficiency and this is not just with a view on the manufacturing process - that is just one element of it.”  He explained the Schneider Electric has offerings for the entire facility including industrial automation, data center, energy management, security, and life safety.  Blum said they are providing the customer with a system that seamlessly integrates all functions. He stressed that this includes a high level of information to benchmark against KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), including energy and sustainability goals. 
There was a great deal of discussion about providing information on computer dashboards. These dashboards allow the operations managers to clearly understand the relationship between processes and identify areas for improvement. Blum made the point about the importance of normalizing data and relating it to each step in the manufacturing process.  The goal is to provide meaningful information which leads to improving operations. He cited examples where they have seen productivity variances between shifts on a line in a plant. By using properly normalized and organized data, the reasons for variance are easily identified. These same techniques can be used to benchmark multiple plants and identify the differences which will lead to informed improvements.
We discussed energy cost, how it impacts industry, and the importance of energy conservation. Blum pointed out that energy prices go up and down, but a bigger concern is the volatility of energy costs. Energy conservation cannot reduce the commodity volatility. But by lowering the amount of energy consumed and using smarter buying methods, manufacturers can lower this risk. Ramsey discussed Schneider Electric’s activity in performance contracting, particularly in the water & waste water plants. These plants are focused on lowering operational expenses so they can pay for the technology to manage regulatory issues.
Consultative Approach
In our discussion, Blum and Ramsey talked about a more holistic and solutions-based approach to working with users. I suggested that Schneider Electric has historically been viewed as a company providing electrical devices and PLCs through distributors. I asked how they plan to change this. Ramsey explained that for about the last three years the company has focused on solutions and a holistic approach of working with customers as a consultant. She acknowledged that many users are just starting to understand the new Schneider Electric approach. The company has been building competency centers and adding experts to accomplish this goal.
Ramsey explained that Schneider Electric’s hardware platforms are “pretty solid.” “We can be the open information platform that can pull the analytics together, and correlate the data,” said Ramsey. Blum reinforced this position by noting they are focused on being the information platform for automation.
Thoughts & Observations
In our discussions, the water industry and data center management groups were used as examples for providing more of a holistic and consultative approach to customers. The way Schneider Electric works with customers in these areas seems representative of the goal for all industries.
Schneider is taking a major focus on energy and sustainability across all industries served. In their 2011 annual presentation to shareholders, Schneider Electric stated about 50% of CO2 reduction will come from energy efficiency. Schneider Electric has five business units with sales contribution as Utilities & Infrastructure at 20%, Industries & Machine manufacturers at 24%, Data centers at 17%, Non-residential building at 30%, and Residential at 9%.
Schneider Electric is putting energy and sustainability front and center as their corporate strategy with customers.

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