Customer-centricity: Innovation center reveals a reinvigorated Schneider Electric

Raleigh, NC—Schneider Electric launched a revolutionary technology center to support automation and control original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), the first-ever such resource in the industry, company representatives said. The Automation and Control Innovation Center in Raleigh, NC, brings together a dedicated team of industry specialists from multiple disciplines who serve as a single-point resource for technical and application support, helping with customer focus.
By Control Engineering Staff October 29, 2007

Raleigh, NC —.

During a special two-day media event held Oct. 25 and Oct. 26, Schneider Electric unveiled the

Automation and Control Innovation Center

in Raleigh, NC, a new hands-on demonstration facility designed to showcase the company’s solutions in an environment custom-tailored to meet the specific needs of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end-user customers. And although the Innovation Center offered an impressive view of the breadth and depth of the organization’s capabilities, the strategy and spirit behind the creation of such a center marks a critical and positive change for Schneider Electric’s automation business as a whole. Application demonstrations there cover a wide range of automation technologies including: controls, sensors, software, human machine interface (HMI), networks, circuit protection, electrical distribution, machine control, motor control, and power management.

As the parent company for such well-known brands as Square D, Modicon and Telemecanique, Schneider Electric has long offered a solid and sizable catalog of automation, control and electrical products. In recent years, however, the market has shifted from a product-centric to a solution-centric way of shopping for industrial equipment. Instead of approaching a vendor with a request for a widget meeting specific performance parameters, for example, manufacturers are increasingly approaching vendors with specific problems which need to be solved and the technology a means to an end for getting the job done.

Adapting to this market dynamic can pose something of a challenge on many levels for organizations with a portfolio of strong global brands recognized for the technical aspects of the product. However, the opening of the Innovation Center and a renewed focus on delivering problem-solving solutions indicates that Schneider Electric is taking a much more proactive role in adapting and responding to the needs of their customers.

During the grand opening event, Control Engineering had an opportunity to sit down with Andy Gravitt, vice president of industrial automation and control for Schneider Electric’s North American operating division, and discuss the significance of the Automation Center and the strategic and organizational shifts it represents.

“There is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and energy within the organization,” said Gravitt. “What you see here today is part of a multi-year strategy aimed at creating a‘culture of innovation’ within the business and empowering all of our employees to become problem solvers in a more direct, more tangible way.”

One innovative example of how this philosophy in action can be found within the company’s “Life Book” approach for tackling a manufacturer’s most challenging business and technical issues. Taking a page from practices common in the financial services world, Schneider has developed an interview and survey tool which can be used with customers to gain an in-depth, 360-degree view of current challenges and business goals. Once completed, the Schneider representative can then leverage the data to prepare a comprehensive recap of the situation, provide details on the proposed solution and offer financial data which helps the customer to secure bottom-line justification for making any new automation and control investments.

Bringing customers– or prospective customers – to the Automation and Control Innovation Center offers another opportunity to refine the scope of the project at hand and foster greater collaboration between the manufacturer and the Schneider team. By combining hands-on exposure to Schneider Electric technologies with open access to engineering teams and other resident product and technical experts, Gravitt aims to create a collaborative environment to accelerate the company’s ability to solve customers’  automation and business challenges.

In conjunction with customer-facing elements of Schneider’s renewed strategy are internally-focused operational measurements. Leadership teams regularly evaluate the performance of the business against several key metrics to ensure that customer-centricity is being addressed throughout the organization, Gravitts said. And if this sounds like familiar territory to those who are Six Sigma savvy, there’s good reason.

“The voice of the customer is present in virtually everything we do,” explained Gravitt. “Our organization takes a holistic approach to addressing the needs of our customers– from engineering and support to legal and finance – and we leverage scorecards to consistently analyze and improve our performance.”

Schneider Electric automation and control business personnel articulate many checkpoints behind their strategy, to ensure they stay on-track with the organization’s goals and objectives. The truest measure, however, will be seen in how the market responds. Stay tuned.

For more information about Schneider Electric’s latest solutions . Control Engineering .

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Expansions: Control Microsystems, Rexroth, Schneider Electric, Yokogawa

Marc Moschetto , editorial director
Control Engineering
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