“Schneider Electric sees the advent of the Industrial Internet of Things as an “evolution,” not a “revolution”


Hussain Ahmed, Commercial Organisation - OEM Segment - Program Manager, Industry Business, Schneider Electric 

Hussain Ahmed, Commercial Organisation - OEM Segment - Program Manager, Industry Business, Schneider Electric in an exclusive interview with Jigar Patel (Editor, Automation & Controls – A&C TODAY), Hussain Ahmed talks about how technology trends transform industrial automation, benefits of Industry 4.0 & IIoT technologies, inclination of IIoT, challenges in process automation, how IIoT big data & IT will transform manufacturing industry, and Industry 4.0 &  IIoT mean for Schneider Electric.

 How will technology trends transform industrial automation?

HA: Technology has seen an unprecedented growth in the past few years. Such advancements have brought about a transformational change in the field of industrial automation. Today’s concept of industrial automation is based on having one centralized “brain” collecting information from the manufacturing assets to facilitate production decisions. In ‘smart manufacturing’ the intelligence is decentralized, with each of the smart assets within the factory having full information about itself, and equipped with the processing power to optimize their own productivity and efficiency. The amount and variety of data from smart devices is increasing exponentially. It is predicted that, by 2020, there will be an installed base of over 50 billion smart devices worldwide. To take full advantage of the Internet of Things, a highly secure software infrastructure is required that has broad connectivity, is modular and extensible, can manage and analyze huge amounts of data and is capable of delivering knowledge and results to an increasingly mobile workforce. .. Industrial Automation is ahead of most other industries in the readiness for the Internet of Things (IoT) and more specifically for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). When one looks at the deployment of the sensors, actuators and low-level devices that are needed to enable IoT or IIoT, Industrial Automation has an edge.

"The ‘Make in India' initiative, which seeks to make the country a global manufacturing hub, is expected to be the biggest driver for industrial automation and internet of things"




 Around the world traditional manufacturing industry is in the final stage of a digital transformation; please elaborate how manufacturing industry can get benefits of Industry 4.0 and IIoT technologies?

HA: Today manufacturing has evolved to such an extent that only through innovation and investment in technologies can businesses gain the productivity and efficiency advantage that will allow them to compete in the global market.  The 'Make in India' initiative, which seeks to make the country a global manufacturing hub, is expected to be the biggest driver for industrial automation and internet of things. New trends in manufacturing systems have been using automation processes at every stage, such as material handling, machining, assembling, inspection and packaging. With the computer-aided control and industrial robotic systems, manufacturing automation becomes very flexible and efficient.

 Industry 4.0 or Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), what’s your inclination?

HA: The era of the Internet of Things (IoT) has begun and has the potential to touch every individual and every enterprise, improving daily life and helping companies be more agile. .The ongoing quest for increased efficiency and productivity is putting more and more pressure on operational and maintenance excellence. This is very crucial in developing economies like India. Industries are being driven by increasing infrastructure investments in new economies, the push to modernize ageing systems and equipment, increasing regulations, increasing market speed and volatility, and disruptive technology. Industrial automation is currently in its adolescent phase but is catching up very quickly. Using data to improve industrial performance by connecting things to each other is the need of the hour. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is one of the primary megatrends impacting our market today which incorporates wireless technologies, low cost sensors and advanced analytics. Schneider Electric is an IIoT pioneer with a history of strong innovation in this area with technologies like:

  • Ethernet on the plant floor right down to the sensor level
  • The use of web IP technologies as a way to converge IT systems with OT systems
  • The introduction of device integration servers for connectivity and transparency
  • Information management software to contextualize data

There have been many evolutions in technology and market changes that have helped us build on our initial vision including:

  • Innovations in hardware (sharp declines in the cost of electronics, allowing the large scale deployment cost effective of wireless sensors)
  • And software (Increasing use of data analytics)
  • With increasingly easy connectivity (cloud and WAN etc…)

 How IIoT big data and IT will transform manufacturing industry?

HA: The intelligence allowing IoT devices to communicate is not a new concept. However, Operational Intelligence implies a new degree of visibility to data and assets that allows for tremendous cost savings, rapid response time, and better decisions holistically across a business. Industrial automation involves tracking data collected from different types of equipment and connecting it to the cloud, where we can apply analytics on it and put it into context. The information can then be used to generate a workflow for maintenance departments so the asset can be properly maintained based on its current operating realities. This data can also help to improve overall maintenance processes.

 The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) how it has been driven by convergence of market forces and innovation of enabling technologies in the process industry, how does it aid cost effectiveness solution?

HA: The automated systems help the industries to save a great deal in the long term by substituting automated machinery in place of human labour. In this way, the unit production cost is reduced. Automation equipment running smoothly or uniformly 24×7 not only increases the productivity, but also consequently results in excellent return on investment by saving salaries, workforce costs, pensions and costs with employees.

 Industry 4.0 and industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies adoption are essential for increasing safety of the plant, people and assets, how Schneider intensification these modern technologies? 

HA: By implementing automated system, work is made safer by transferring the worker from an active participant at a location to the supervising role. The automated machines are able to work in hazardous and other extreme environments. Also, these systems make use of industrial robots in place of human workers, especially in life-threatening conditions (chemical and high temperature conditions). Therefore an industrial automation system prevents the accidents, health hazards and injuries to the workers.

 Performance, profitability and processes are fundamental to maximize productivity at process industry.  Could you please elaborate bottlenecks in process industry?

HA: The immediate identification and correction of bottlenecks along the manufacturing line are critical factors in streamlining operational efficiency and increasing profitability. For many companies, the instinct is to minimize cleaning and changeover time. But in the rush to eliminate extra steps, companies cannot overlook valuable additions. The adoption of equipment and initiatives to improve overall equipment effectiveness is essential to reduce bottlenecks, maintain the integrity of operations and increase cost savings.

 What does Industry 4.0 and IIoT mean for Schneider Electric?

HA: Schneider Electric sees the advent of the Industrial Internet of Things as an “evolution,” not a “revolution.” We draw on our long history of innovation in open architectures and Ethernet-based technologies to guide our customers through this transformation. The Industrial Internet of Things brings about a world where our smart connected products and systems operate as part of larger systems of systems.

We see the plant of tomorrow as a smart plant – a truly connected and sustainable ecosystem where plants and machines work together in a secure and collaborative way to put technology at the service of people for greater empowerment and efficiency.

Our solutions are based on open and standard Internet technologies that enable secure access to devices and information from the control system in order to leverage (big) data and analytics and mobility technologies to ultimately help our customers achieve greater business control. In our world, smart plants and machines with intelligence embedded at their core cooperate to enable the smart enterprise – where tangible business value is realized through improvements to efficiency and profitability, increased cyber security.

With a global R&D spend of $1.2 billion led by a 12,000-strong team; our facility in Bengaluru is one of the key global innovation centres in addition to centres in Grenoble in France, Shanghai (China), Boston (USA) and Monterrey in Mexico.


This interview was carried out in A&C TODAY's April/May 2016 issue, the issue can be viewed here: A&C TODAY - April/May 2016

     Digital Magazines

December'15/January 2016