Solutions provided, motivation required
Recent company acquisitions and product announcements made by Schneider Electric testify to the automation industry’s increasing focus on industrial energy management. Schneider’s own approach to this emerging market includes offering services that support discrete and process manufacturers negotiating with utilities; supervisory software and systems for managing energy; and increasingly efficient equipment, machines, and devices.
The Schneider push, which includes dubbing itself “the global specialist in energy management,” gives energy-intensive industries a chance to bet on what amounts to a sure thing, the company says.
First, “The cost of electricity is only going to go up,” says Andy Gravitt, Schneider Electric senior vice president, industry business, U.S. “About 31% of current energy usage is tied to industry and infrastructure. In manufacturing industries, energy ranges from 5% to 40% of the cost of goods sold.”
Moreover, CMO Aaron Davis points out, while some in the U.S. still dispute whether carbon-based energy constraints and the threat of global warming are real, “it’s a bit like Pascal’s bet on the existence of the Deity. Isn’t the safe bet to assume that they are real, based on what we know today?”
Introduced in October (2011) at an event held in Chicago, StruxureWare is Schneider’s integrated software platform for energy management and process optimization. As has been often pointed out, the initial hurdle in achieving energy cost savings is that, in many industrial settings, electricity is considered a fixed cost and not even monitored, much less controlled, in any meaningful way.
StruxureWare provides “enterprise- wide energy information to help make informed decisions on how to best reduce energy usage and maximize cost savings,” Philippe Delorme, EVP, strategy and innovation, says. StruxureWare is the software platform of EcoStruxure, Schneider’s energy management architecture portfolio connecting five domains: power, data centers, process and machines, building control, and physical security. In coming months, Schneider will introduce StruxureWare for Industry, as well as similar software suites for buildings and the electrical grid.
In March, Schneider announced its intention to acquire Summit Energy Services, a provider of outsourced energy procurement and sustainability services. Summit’s dashboard views are now embedded in StruxureWare. As important, Jeff Drees, president, U.S., Schneider Electric, says, “is how you buy energy. Managing $20 billion of spend, Summit has been able to save its customers $450 million. The utilities are not happy with having a mediator on board. They’re used to working with meters, not customers.”
Schneider’s other recent energy-related acquisitions include an agreement to acquire Telvent for Smart Grid and infrastructure software and services, including in the oil and gas industry; and Lee Technologies for data center efficiency.
Schneider’s MachineStruxure automation solutions are meant to support machine builders that must increase efficiencies, including those related to energy, while participating in a highly competitive, cost-constrained market.
M-Tek, Elgin, Ill., is a maker of modified atmosphere packaging systems used in food industries. The company uses the MachineStruxure solution in its V-60, a packaging system. “It does involve higher input costs into a commodity product, so we have seen longer sales cycles,” says Rick Tkaczyk, EVP, sales and marketing. “But its value-added performance makes the more efficient machine transparently less expensive over time.”
At the end of the day, concludes Davis, “Energy solutions are going to come from global companies working together and driven both by sustainability principles and profit motives.”
– Kevin Parker is content specialist with CFE Media. Reach him at email@example.com.
This is part of the Control Engineering December 2011 Industrial Energy Management supplement.