Schneider Electric: Digitisation, utilisation & sustainability focused
Since the emergence of Covid-19 more than two years ago, businesses across the world have seen the devastating impacts of the prolonged outbreak that has severely hurt the economy, low-ered consumption and put millions of people out of jobs.
The global health crisis has started to ease but economic challenges remain, and many firms are still feeling the lingering pain of supply chain disruption as some areas have remained closed, notably in China, “the world’s factory”.
On the other hand, the pandemic has sped up the pace of digitisation with many transactions, meetings and classes taking place online. This trend is expected to continue, thanks to the flexi-bility it has provided while the availability of the technology allows us to explore new ways of work-ing, learning and consuming.
Greater digitisation and the pandemic itself have encouraged businesses to move toward sus-tainability so that they can survive ongoing hardships and any other possible disruptions that might happen in the future, says Schneider Electric, the French multinational that specialises in digital transformation and energy management.
“Covid has started an interdependence of the world and [shown us] how we actually can be se-verely impacted if we don’t act on some of the right things that we have to do,” says Manish Pant, the Singapore-based zone president for East Asia and Japan of Schneider Electric.
Schneider's Smart factory in Bangpoo Industrial Estate generates 22% of its annual electricity use via solar rooftop. By partially using renewable energy, the plant can reduce CO2 emission by 682 tonnes per year.
“Today the challenge that is there for all of us is how will we be able to actually take our commit-ment and promises of sustainability to execution. And that to us is the biggest challenge that we see,” he tells Asia Focus.
Because of Covid, digitisation is happening at a much faster pace now, he acknowledges. “One thing Covid has done is break the old paradigms. During Covid we have all done things that we said were difficult to do, very complicated, or we would never do.
“We are now able to do those things. Whether it is operating customers’ cases from home, meeting or responding to customers’ requests, sorting inquiries, or doing surveys, all of that we are now able to do digitally,” explains Mr Pant, who is in charge of 14 markets for Schneider including Southeast Asia, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Mongolia.
One good example is Schneider’s acceptance desk. “If you buy an expensive piece of equipment, let’s say a switch gear or transformer, you want to go and test it and see if it is working before it is shipped out of the factory. And we have been offering a remote factory acceptance desk during the time of Covid,” he says.
“That was unheard of before Covid. It is something that completely changes the way we interact with our customers. And a lot of this is happening digitally now.
“This is another example of digital. It’s a digital interface for something that was always done phys-ically and now you can do it virtually. This is something that Covid has caused us to start.”
In Thailand, for example, Schneider has worked with Eastern Water Resources Development and Management Plc (East Water) to operate the latter’s unified operating centre, which enables the SET-listed company to reduce water leakage and energy consumption throughout its operations.
As well, Schneider is working on a project with the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) to digitise its grid. With the Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS), the PEA aims to make its network ready for the future which is going to have multiple sources of energy.
“Our vision is that the whole customer journey has to be digitised starting from the design stage, to build and operate and then to maintain,” says Mr Pant. “The whole cycle of the customer is digital. We are bringing a number of software applications that will help customers in every part of their digital journey.”
The digital applications helps create a seamless journey from design to operation. As a result, customers should be able to seamlessly interface and make everything work, he adds.
“Digitisation is happening across the industry, yet it needs to go much faster than the pace it is moving at now,” Mr Pant states.
Schneider Electric has been named the World’s Most Sustainable Company by Corporate Knights. Ranked first among more than 8,000 corporations assessed for the 2021 Global 100, the French company jumped from 29th place in 2020, reflecting its consistent progress towards and commit-ment to sustainability excellence.
Corporate Knights’ 2021 ranking was based on an assessment of companies with more than US$1 billion in revenues. Performance indicators include evaluations of how much renewable energy and waste companies generate. New indicators on sick leave, executive and board racial diversi-ty, and clean investments were included for the assessment last year.
Schneider, with global revenue of 29.91 billion euros ($31.35 billion) in 2021, projects to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 and net zero carbon emissions by 2030. Both targets are markedly ear-lier than 2050 and 2065 for most countries’ pledges to reach carbon neutrality and net zero under the Paris Accord, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the cen-tury.
“Today we are on the path of 4 to 5 degrees more if we don’t act,” says Mr Pant. “If you look at all the commitments that have been made, they are taking out still three times less carbon than what should be required for the 1.5-degrees trajectory, because to achieve net zero carbon by 2050, we have to reduce by 50% by 2030. “There is a burning need for urgency and we need to act right now.”
Sustainability, he notes, helps companies to perform better “as a consequence of digitisation”.
“Those are some of the benefits that customers are getting through digitisation,” stresses Mr Pant. “It helps in several aspects. It is able to bring better asset management and higher asset utilisa-tion. Also, it is able to bring in efficiency with lots of predictive maintenance, as you are now able to know how your equipment is doing and therefore when it is going to fail or what you need to do to repair it.
“You know in real time how your equipment is doing so you have constant monitoring of your equipment. All of this is vital for driving sustainability. You are able to know how much you can save and how much you are driving efficiency, which is leading to sustainability. It is helping you to manage your assets much better than before.”
To drive sustainability, he recommends that companies undertake a three-step process. First is to strategise what they want to achieve and what is their vision toward net zero. “When you have done that, it is also very important to communicate because you have to take ownership for what you want to do,” says Mr Pant.
The second step is digitising and the third is decarbonising, which is a way to reduce energy use through electrification and energy efficiency, changing the mix of energy use, or offsetting.
“For us at Schneider Electric, we have certain digital platforms on which you can bring your full value chain and monitor and measure the energy and resources that you are consuming, and therefore you can know what is the gap to what you want to achieve,” he says.
To implement the three-step process, Mr Pant says Schneider is ready to partner with customers “to make it happen”. “We deliver all these solutions — strategise, digitise, decarbonise — with a network of partners because we at Schneider Electric know that we cannot do it alone.”
“Today, the technologies are here. And it is a matter of adoption,” he notes. “We at Schneider Elec-tric are ready with those technologies. We are here in East Asia in every country to deliver those technologies with the same level of expertise that you would get anywhere else in the world. We are able to deliver and drive this digitisation faster.”