I was fortunate to attend Schneider Electric’s Connect 2016 Automation Conference in New Orleans in May and I have to say it was an impressive event. With customers and Schneider representatives from around the world there was an international flair. While in attendance I met people from Thailand, Russia, Dubai and many other countries.
My reason for attending this conference was primarily focused on the System Integrator Alliance Partner program. As an Alliance partner I was particularly interested in discovering what changes were coming about to further grow our opportunities to team with the SE organization. In summary the opportunities for companies like ours will continue to grow with the program as we continue to prove our skill sets in different disciplines including Telemetry, SCADA, Cyber Security, VFD’s, Energy Management and others which allow for different certification paths. There will be three different levels to reward organizations based on passing certification exams, they are, Registered, Certified and Master. Schneider Electric understands the importance of utilizing System Integrators such as GTH in their business model and recognize that we cannot compete for the same opportunities with their engineering group. Local Schneider managers and engineers are tasked with discussing these projects with us to ensure this doesn’t happen. http://www2.schneider-electric.com/sites/corporate/en/customers/alliance/system-integrators.page.
The key markets for their automation solutions include Food and Beverage, Water, Oil & Gas and Mining, Minerals & Metals. With the acquisition of Invensys there is a renewed focus on these process industries. An example is that certified partners will have access to the Triconex triple redundant PLC system for critical applications including SIL2 and SIL3 Safety. In addition it’s "the only controller approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for commercial Off-the-Shelf use in Nuclear 1E applications”. http://www.schneider-electric.com/solutions/ww/en/sol/642441758-with-triconex-your-people-are-safe-and-your-business-is-sound
The majority of processes we typically are involved with will be best served by the new M580 PAC. This platform offers a unique and very powerful system based on an Ethernet backbone offering 100 Mbps speed from end to end. The release of a hot standby option makes this a best in class solution from Schneider Electric.
The M580 also incorporates Cyber-security via the Unity Pro development software which provides encrypted password access, supervision of firmware and software integrity. These features have provided the platform with a Cyber Security certified Achilles Level 2 rating. Schneider Electric will continue to invest heavily in this flagship product with an estimated $20M to $30M of R&D this year. http://www.schneider-electric.com/en/product-range/62098-modicon-m580---epac-controller/
The new Altivar Process VFD was discussed at length with the unique ability to provide true power monitoring via an energy dashboard and incorporated process optimization tools and asset management which are all accessible by a customizable Web Server built right into the drive. http://www.schneider-electric.com/en/product-range/62317-altivar-process-atv600?parent-subcategory-id=86129
As a Schneider product, Wonderware’s System Platform will continue to be the leading SCADA system for larger applications. Enhancements to incorporate templates and tools for VFD’s, Unity features and other functionality will continue to be developed and rolled out to their system integrator partners to enhance productivity and offer greater integration of hardware and software.
In relation to the automation and control industry the current business climate consensus is that most new projects in the next one to two years will be OPEX based versus CAPEX. Therefore a focus on modernization of existing systems is going to offer the greatest return on investment. This is a perfect time to also consider enhancements to current processes during modernization and upgrades of existing systems. Often the focus is only to upgrade the hardware and software applications with little emphasis on actual process improvements. As a group we need to have these discussions with our customers to offer the best possible solutions to their problems.
In summary the Schneider Electric Connect Automation Conference was well thought out and professionally organized while still being fun and engaging. The location being in New Orleans certainly didn’t hurt and offered something for everyone whether you’re looking for quiet time along the Mississippi or wild times on Bourbon Street!