Connected from Plant to PlugTue, 11/01/2016 - 10:44
While some businesses struggle to implement the rapid innovations of an increasingly connected world, others have been ahead of the curve from the beginning. Schneider Electric belongs to the latter group and says its history shows why Mexico’s industries must have the foresight to adapt to emerging telecommunications trends. “Our world is rapidly becoming digital and that is impacting a variety of countries like Mexico,” says Enrique González, the company’s Country President. “We need to take better control of the digitization of our world and this includes everyone across the value chain from plant to plug.” Schneider is a global specialist in energy management and automation. It has four main end markets: nonresidential and residential buildings (34 percent), utilities and infrastructure (25 percent), industry and machine manufacturers (27 percent) and data centers and networks (14 percent).
González says that connectivity can give a company an advantage that leads to savings. He cites Schneider’s energy efficiency programs that had been deployed across many of Schneider’s global supply chain sites for several years. Its solution was to digitize its data, which now allows it to capture relevant information for efficient use of energy. “We are able to anticipate energy usage needs, anticipate increases in energy costs, renegotiate energy contracts and make decisions fasters based on the recommendations of our StruxureWare resource management software,” González says. “This was the start of a digitized experience in energy efficiency for Schneider and additional savings in energy and energy costs.”
As more SMEs in Mexico become interested in data and telecommunications infrastructure, Schneider is ahead of the curve in adapting to new trends. Its past provides a good illustration. In 1997, at the dawn of the internet age, Schneider was one of the first companies to drop its traditional proprietary automation standards and move everything to ethernet and internet standards. “We knew the internet was too slow, too expensive and too difficult to manipulate but we knew that in the near future the massive investments by the IT and telecommunications industry into the internet would result in a great deal of innovation and development,” explains González. “These industries could offer greater advantages than the traditional automation industry and we stood to benefit.” That model was called Transparent Ready and since then Schneider has built all its products on ethernet and internet-based standards. “As the costs of these internet technologies dropped and maturity increased, we could adapt our products to integrate the Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) worlds,” he says. “Connectivity redefines everything and there is no bigger testament than Schneider Electric’s success.”
Digitization leads to connectivity. Connectivity produces two-way energy and information flow. “This results in a more efficient world,” says González. “But one of the biggest problems facing us today in Mexico is the disconnected grid and high-energy consumption. Our country is experiencing a nodal point in energy consumption. The country recorded its highest ever level of electricity consumption on June 16 this year, according to the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE).” On that day, electricity use jumped to 40,693MW. Mexico’s installed capacity is 54,000MW.
The rise in the cost of fossil energy sources also has intensified pressure for more efficiency and for strategies to achieve a balance between operating expenses and capital expenditures. “We need a digitally connected energy grid, from generation to transmission to distribution to consumption, to drive increased efficiency,” González says. “We have developed the solutions and technology to take the energy grid to the next generation but we need connectivity to make them a reality.” González says that electricity companies must stress the importance of communication and connectivity compatibility with the technologies they offer. “Today more than ever, Schneider Electric has a responsibility to raise awareness of the issues related to energy efficiency and technology and a responsibility to integrate solutions that meet the specific challenges faced by Mexico and that are impacting society, businesses and industry as a whole,” he says.