Schneider Electric's U.S. strategy banks on software, services

Schneider Electric's U.S. strategy banks on software, services

He's been president and CEO of Schneider Electric's $8 billion North American operation for barely two months, but company veteran Laurent Vernerey is clear about his strategy for gaining share in energy management and smart city infrastructure solutions. It involves better leveraging the giant company's services and software expertise and resources.

"An important factor of driving efficiency of processes actually takes place at the time of design," Vernerey said. "We also want to respond to the need that our customers are expressing, which is to say, 'I have an existing operation. For compliance reasons or cybersecurity reasons or modernization reasons, how can [Schneider Electric] help me do this project and how can you advise me on what is the most effective path?'"

In conversation after conversation with municipal and industrial accounts, Schneider Electric has encountered a high level of interest in consulting insights and best practices for energy management as well as in managed services that keep things running smoothly once they are in place, he said. Despite an almost universal interest in sensor-driven automation solutions, many organizations lack either a clear catalyst to take action or the tools to get started.

"The Internet of Things is only interesting for customers when we actually offer them a solution of what to do with that data, how to make sense of this huge amount of data, and that's what we're doing in building analytics," Vernerey said.

Building automation in at the design stage

Although you might think of Schneider Electric mainly as an electrical equipment and infrastructure technology provider, it already has an extensive services portfolio — one that got even bigger in January when it completed its $5.2 billion acquisition of Invensys, a provider of industrial automation solutions and managed maintenance services. Although the integration is still under way, the skills that the Invensys organization brings will be instrumental for expanding Schneider Electric's range of process automation solutions especially in industries such as oil and gas development, he said.

The services the Schneider Electric offers will run the gamut: everything from helping companies design an energy-procurement strategy to staying on top of equipment modernization, increasingly with the help of automated management tools. "We are going toward services that are information-driven," Vernerey said, pointing to dashboards that help model consumption trends in real time and make predictive suggestions about ways to become more efficient.

To support customer design needs, Schneider Electric is building cross-discipline laboratories — called StruxureLabs — where its engineers work with clients to design approaches and create proof-of-concept solutions.

Another example of how it is sharing its expertise: It is creating and publishing detailed reference designs, including a series of recipes for modular data centers that help companies maximize IT capacity while optimizing the use of sustainable cooling techniques. Yes, those designs use the company's technology, butthey also involve technologies and services from key partners such as Cisco and IBM. "We believe that we can bring an unique understanding of those operational systems," Vernerey said. "We also believe that this is not a topic we can address on our own."Image via Schneider Electric

Vernerey's frame of reference is informed by more than two decades with Schneider Electric in roles spanning from information systems to manufacturing; he joined when Schneider Electric bought Telemecanique, an expert in industrial controls. More recently, heled the transformation of the Schneider Electric power distribution and IT businesses.

Many of Schneider Electric's new services will be tested and validated in the United States, home to some of the most "demanding and advanced customers" in the ongoing transformation to a smarter, more resilient energy ecosystem. "We have reached a stage where we think we have the right strategic assets," Vernerey said.

Top image by  jules2000 via Shutterstock.