Industrial Automation: Why it Matters


The ongoing quest for increased efficiency and productivity is putting more and more pressure on operational and maintenance excellence. As is the need to feed fast growing businesses in developing economies like India. Industrial automation is currently in its adolescent phase but is catching up very quickly. 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 advantage.

Internet of things and increased industrial performance

The Internet of Things is coming and in some industries is already here but is in its infancy. Most industries are waiting on the deployment of the low-level connected devices to enable Internet of things in that industry. Industrial Automation on the other hand already has over a billion connected devices deployed. On a curve of connected devices needed to make Internet of things effective, Industrial Automation is much higher up the curve than other industries.

Using data to improve industrial performance by connecting things to each other – this is happening now. Through wireless technologies, low cost sensors and using advanced analytics. In practice, this is a decision support system for complex manufacturing operations. However this is not to say Industrial Automation is done growing with respect to Internet of things, Where Industrial Automation may be lagging other industries is in the gathering of useful data and the use of this data. Much of the information that resides on the end device that could be useful is not gathered. Data that is not consumed at the field or process levels in the traditional Industrial Automation hierarchy is not gathered. Now we must realize that the value of this data that is not being collected is increasing and Industrial Automation networks are starting to collect the data and communicate this data farther up the hierarchy.

Smart Factories

A 'Smart Factory' can be defined as an integrated and fully interconnected network of smart assets working together in an intelligent and coordinated manner, managing every aspect of the manufacturing process from end-to-end. Each smart asset is equipped with its own “brain” and a database of all available data about itself, enabling it to present useful information or “facets” to different operation personnel, and is also equipped with its own intelligence to allow it to optimize their own productivity and efficiency. 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. These smart assets are also hyper connected to optimize & coordinate each step of the manufacturing process.

Smart assets are already available in the market today with the new generation of process automation systems and smart field instrumentation. Hyper connectivity that allows smart assets to be fully- interconnected from the field to the enterprise is also already available in the market.

Our Solutions

Schneider Electric has amassed decades of experience in managing data at the plant level and adding innovation to automation, leading to simpler, safer and more flexible processes and machines. Our long history of innovation in open architectures and Internet based technologies puts us in a better position than many of our competitors to deliver the promise of the smart plant. As an innovative global technology company with a strong position in integrated industrial automation, software and energy management, we deliver automation solutions that address both the challenges of today and the opportunities tomorrow. Opportunities brought about by the advent of the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 and Big Data and the ongoing evolution of technology, will be adopted in our offering to further enhance our client's ability to address automation challenges.

We were one of the first companies to start growing our Industrial Internet of Things capabilities organically – with our Transparent Factory and Transparent Ready offers from the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Sudhir Dembi, GM, Plant Solutions, Schneider Electric, India.

A ‘Smart Factory’ can be defined as an integrated and fully interconnected network of smart assets working together in an intelligent and coordinated manner, managing every aspect of the manufacturing process from end-to-end.

These put Ethernet and open architectures at the core of our technology, where they remain to this day. We were the first to embed web servers in our PLC control platforms, and continued our control innovation with the 2013 launch of the first PAC with Ethernet embedded in its backplane – the Modicon M580 ePAC. This innovative offer won the Control Engineering 2015 Engineers' Choice Award in the category of Machine & Embedded Control – PACs, IPCs category.

Technology future, vision and direction

Our work on a pervasive Ethernet solution coupled with our platform for our smart connected assets will bring intelligence to the lower levels of a plant and increase the flexibility and collaboration of our solutions. Termed “service-oriented automation,” this technology will deliver more robust distributed control with the execution of functions like alarming and event logging, self-diagnostics, troubleshooting, and data historization in smart connected products.

By introducing our customers to cutting edge solutions such as cloud technology for the plant or workshop, product-as-a-service for our architectures and increased network optimization, we will help them make the most of these new technologies in a secure way and ensure they are suitable for the industrial environment. As such, we will continue to evolve our IIoT offers in a secure manner, expanding on existing security certified products and secure remote solutions and services, with a strong commitment to enhancing open standards to address IIoT security.

Article Courtesy:

Sudhir Dembi, GM, Plant Solutions

Schneider Electric, India.

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December'15/January 2016