Next-generation automation development for sustainability

Successful digitalization can enhance sustainability efforts, and Schneider Electric is helping customers with both, according to a Pack Expo Las Vegas conference presentation.

By Mark T. Hoske October 14, 2021
Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology


Learning Objectives

  • Plug-and-play automation advances are helping Schneider Electric help its customers with digitalization, energy management and sustainability.
  • Open architecture control system provides machine design advantages.
  • New product introductions help customers advance automation and sustainability goals.

Computational and networking advances, along with plug-and-play automation advances, are helping Schneider Electric help its customers with digitalization, energy management and sustainability, according to Kaishi Zhang, global director product management, Schneider Electric, at a presentation at Pack Expo Las Vegas.

Energy management, industrial automation and sustainability are the core of what Schneider Electric does, he said. Other information from Zhang’s presentation follows.

Interoperability helps create supply chain resiliency

Future capabilities for industries are here and made more urgent as supply chain disruptions are causing companies to recheck the resiliency of operations. Interoperability is key to getting devices and software from vendor A devices and systems to talk to vendor B devices and systems.

The next quantum leap in industrial automation is software-centric universal automation. For many, that requires using a new technology model.

Plug-and-produce automation is using the application store model used by mobile phone operating system providers. A key enabler of creating an Industry 4.0 ecosystem for users and automation vendors is adoption of a reference automation layer, IEC 61499 (Linux) system modeling and data management. The standard provides opportunity to move away from traditional non-interoperable distributed control system (DCS) programming. Wide use of the standard would combine the best parts of programmable logic controller (PLC) and DCS worlds.

With wide-open standards-based architectures, different companies could co-create different components for automation architectures with plug-and-play interoperability.

The future is not business as usual. The next level of universal automation is available with Schneider Electric EcoStruxure Automation Expert, which will help customers drive closer to 100% engineering efficiency, help them prepare for 100% operational effectiveness and make systems that are 100% future proof. Such systems are easier to design, connect and keep updated with a digital twin and easier to drag and drop to add new assets.

What’s needed is an integrated product lifecycle to deliver unprecedented efficiency from end to end, from design, to engineering, operations and maintenance, with cybersecurity throughout.

Open architecture control system design advantages

This universal automation platform from Schneider Electric allows for unprecedented flexibility and openness for a range of third-party edge computing devices, Zhang said, from those as simple as a Raspberry Pi to more complex and powerful devices (Figure 1).

Extech Processing Engineering LLP, a vegetable oil supplier, used the scalable controller model and achieved a 25% reduction in capital expenditure over a traditional system, 20% less downtime using modular designs and out-of-the-box live system diagnostics, and a 10% savings in maintenance costs (Figure 2).

Customers complain about the age of their assets, vendor locking and lack of integration. The enabling technology is a common platform for discrete, hybrid and continuous process industries, Zhang said.

He added industrial applications of the future can today embrace universal automation, sustainable efficiency, and digitalization to boost global economic recovery today in advanced manufacturing and process industries and position them better for maintenance and upgrades moving forward.

Schneider Electric products shown at Pack Expo Las Vegas

Schneider Electric in a Sept. 27 release summarized some of the products, software and solutions shown at Pack Expo Las Vegas.

The new IP 55/66 & NEMA 12 rated EcoStruxure Micro Data Center R-Series for rugged indoor environments offers a fast and simple way to deploy and manage edge computing infrastructure in challenging indoor industrial spaces. As industrial operators deploy Industry 4.0 technologies to increase productivity, safety, and automation, micro data centers are becoming essential to addressing everything from the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) to the enabling of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications — making IT on the factory floor more reliable. EcoStruxure Micro Data Center solutions are configurable, pre-packaged, enclosed rack systems that include power, cooling, security, and management. They save up to 40 percent in field engineering costs, get systems to market 20 percent faster, and reduce maintenance costs by 7%.

The new EcoStruxure Automation Expert v.21.1 is the latest update to the world’s first software-centric universal automation system. This next-generation platform helps manufactures rethink automation system engineering by separating the hardware and software to drive engineering efficiency, increase operational effectiveness, and help future-proof operations. EcoStruxure Automation Expert is based on the IEC61499 standard for interoperability and is ideal for the CPG industry where flexibility is critical to react quickly to changing market dynamics, take advantage of new opportunities, or mitigate potential risks.

Schneider Electric cited ARC Advisory Group as saying, “A standardized automation system layer would be immensely valuable in economic terms.” For example, the $20-30 billion end users spend annually to service their installed base could be reduced substantially through this standardized automation layer, saving valuable engineering time and resulting costs by eliminating the vendor lock-in barrier.

The Square D Easy UPS 3S protects critical equipment from damage due to power outages, surges, and spikes. Designed for a range of environments and temperatures, the Square D Easy UPS 3S offers an exceptional combination of an optimized footprint design and advanced product features allowing OEMs to provide a simple back up power solution to their clients as part of their overall machine design.

While the cost of downtime varies by industry, nearly all large enterprises (>1,000 employees) report a single hour of downtime costs more than $100,000 and 81% of enterprises said that the costs exceed $300,000 per hour, according to an Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC) survey. These power interruptions can disrupt production, damage equipment and cause data loss. Adding the Square D Easy UPS 3S back up power solution helps guarantee business continuity to maximize productivity in light industrial applications.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology,

KEYWORDS: Digitalization, industrial sustainability, Industry 4.0


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Mark T. Hoske
Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.