software-centric

Software-centric automation transforms consumer-packaged goods and logistics operations

Schneider Electric, the leader in digital transformation of energy management and automation, has released version 21.1 of EcoStruxure Automation Expert, its software-centric universal automation system. Adoption of the new technology is proving immediately beneficial for consumer-packaged goods, pharmaceutical and logistics enterprises Read more

Schneider Electric launches first SMART distribution centre in Pacific

Schneider Electric has announced it has completed the digital transformation of its flagship Pacific SMART distribution centre (DC) in Ingleburn. The SMART DC is layered with Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure technology, which drives end-to-end efficiency for the industrial environment, and also houses an industry leading Control Tower which is an innovative leap ahead for supply chain management.

The SMART Ingleburn DC, is the largest in the Pacific and spread over 17,500m2, operating 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. It dispatches 5,000 lines over 70 routes (air and road) daily, servicing a total of 3,500 customers in Australia and New Zealand. The Digitisation of the SMART DC allows Schneider Electric to drive end-to-end efficiencies, bringing with it:

  • Agile management and process efficiency: driving faster and better decisions from the teams to improve customer satisfaction and faster service
  • Asset performance management: predictive analytics for reduced downtime and longer efficient operations
  • Empowered operators: access to real-time assets, data and innovative technology such as EcoStruxure augmented operator advisor that allows increased efficiency in maintenance and processes and significant safety improvements
  • Energy efficiency and reliability: reduced energy consumption through real-time insights delivered by EcoStruxure resource advisor and facility expert. This approach has shown potential savings of up to 30 per cent energy savings.

The Ingleburn SMART DC hosts Schneider Electric’s Pacific Control Tower, a hub that improves supply chain visibility to detect and mitigate supply chain issues and interruptions to significantly improve predictability and reliability for customers.

“The innovative approach brings together in a single site logistics, customer care and personnel representing all our international and domestic transport carriers. This way information from global tracking dashboards can be openly and easily shared and discussed to quickly resolve queries and issues,” said Gareth O’Reilly, zone president Schneider Electric.

“The Control Tower approach has demonstrated a strong return on investment with a 65 percent reduction in time taken to resolve complaints.”

Smart DC and End to End Control Towers are central to Schneider Electric’s tailored, sustainable and connected (TSC) 4.0 strategy which aims to empower our teams, improve customer experience and end to end operational efficiencies.

O’Reilly said, “We support our clients through the digitisation journey with our EcoStruxure IoT-enabled system architecture and platform. The Ingleburn Distribution Centre is an important player in our global network of Smart sites that showcases the EcoStruxure offerings to customers.”

The SMART DC uses EcoStruxure Power in order to better understand and reduce energy usage and EcoStruxure Machine and EcoStruxure Plant to help optimise assets and operational performance.

Specific products showcased include:

  • PowerTags – wireless energy sensors that attach to circuit breakers and provide real-time electrical load data and e-mail alerts in the event of potential issues.
  • Easergy sensors – temperature and humidity sensors that automatically measure, monitor and control energy consumption and demand.
  • Facility Expert – cloud-based software and access to real-time performance data to optimize your facility operations, maintenance and energy management.
  • Resource Advisor – to aggregate all cross-enterprise, energy and sustainability information in a single, cloud-based platform and transform data into actionable insights to improve business operations.
  • Machine Advisor – a cloud-based services platform used to track machines in operation, monitor performance data and fix exceptional events.
  • Augmented Operator Advisor – a custom application that leverages augmented reality for instant diagnosis and contactless maintenance. This has the ability to potentially reduce maintenance and support costs by up to 50 per cent.

Futureproofing can help businesses sustain growth

The future of manufacturing – indeed the future of most industries – is becoming increasingly automated.

The director of process automation and software at Schneider Electric, Brad Yager, talks about futureproofing and how it helps a business sustain growth.

Many rote tasks are now being performed by machines and artificial intelligence (AI) with human oversight, and many of the applications that will be needed to manage production in the future have not yet been developed or even imagined.

Operations and plant managers, when thinking about making efficiencies and chasing profitability, would do well to consider the bigger picture and make strategic decisions that could futureproof the entire organisation instead of fixing short-term problems.

READ: Schneider Electric and Foss and Nutrition Innovation collaborate to produce low GI sugar cane

Ultimately, this will lead to a streamlined, more profitable business.

This holistic approach can take many forms — it goes far beyond merely upgrading existing technology and instead identifies and implements new sources of automation enabled, sustainable business value.

It is essentially cost effective modernisation — in addition to boosting revenue through improved execution of business strategy, it can reduce overall modernisation costs by up to 10 per cent over haphazard piecemeal approaches.

Some examples of the types of applications that can make the process plant of the future available – and affordable – today are the following:

• Server virtualisation, which allows the user to consolidate many PCs and servers into a high availability virtual host server, reducing heat load, weight, and power consumption, as well as improving maintenance efficiency and hence reducing total cost of ownership associated with maintaining many computers.

• Workflow automation software, which, for example, might store and enforce a sequence of proven procedures by which a plant worker might respond to an alarmed incident or event, notifying all affected parties of status and progress in real time.

• Real time energy management systems, in which profitability based on consumption in energy intensive operations is monitored in real time, in the context of dynamic energy markets.

• Real time online modelling, in which, for example, every bit of raw material that comes into a process is tracked, measured, and compared to output with analysis of variance pointing to process variances.

• 3D virtual reality simulation systems, in which, for example, workers can train on handling hazardous situations in a realistic virtual situation much like a pilot trains with a flight simulator.

• Controlled combustion, where advanced process control software monitors the firing of boilers and other equipment, and adjusts in real time to minimize excess O2, CO, and NOx emissions.

It’s not always possible to predict the challenges or the demands of the workplaces of the future, but change and development is a certainty.

By taking that extra step and thinking ahead and planning for more automation, plant managers can make the most of technological upgrades and improvements to make their organisation more profitable.

Machinery you can count on: implementing a profitable reliability strategy

In the past, measuring the reliability of industrial assets was limited to analysing historical asset performance with hopes that past behaviours would be replicated. Manufacturers have relied on various process control methods and applications for more than 100 years, the primary objective being to increase the plant’s throughput, i.e., its production, and safety.

To alleviate the strain being placed on plant assets, industrial maintenance tools and practices, intended to improve asset reliability, have progressed and evolved over the last two decades. Based on extensive laboratory testing and actual in-plant experience, there is already considerable information on reliability at the equipment asset level. For example, accurate reliability curves, coupled with condition and process measurement, enable accurate measurement of asset reliability risk.

The effect of all this is that companies are now paying much more attention to and driving advancements in plant maintenance. Over the past two decades, traditional reactive maintenance has evolved to include preventive, predictive and prescriptive maintenance strategies.

The results have been promising, but improving business performance requires maintenance and operations strategies that collaborate much more than they do today. If the ultimate objective is for both maintenance and operations to maximise operational profitability, approaching reliability, efficiency and profitability from a common strategic plane is essential. This collaborative approach is referred to as profitable reliability.

Advancements in data science and the proliferation of condition and process measurements in industrial operations are making the direct real-time measurement of asset reliability feasible. Such measurement will, in turn, make more sophisticated, real-time approaches to controlling asset reliability feasible too.

Developing a profitable reliability strategy might seem daunting, but some fairly simple steps can help move industrial operations in the right direction:

  • Identify the critical equipment that represent the largest opportunity for performance improvement. Very often this will be rotating equipment because their mechanical movement tends to wear the asset over time.
  • Determine what measurements are required to analyse the equipment’s performance.
  • Use the process and condition measurements to calculate the asset’s maintained state and its probability of failure.
  • Develop an asset control scheme that includes integrated reliability and process control strategies that maximize operational profitability. These might include reducing the output of the asset to extend its time to failure so you can finish a run or a contract.

Move the reliability measurement and control up to the next level asset set (for example, the process unit) and perform the same control strategy analysis. This analysis should be simpler to perform once the base equipment level assets are under control.

Continue this process all the way up the asset hierarchy until you have real-time control strategies in place for all your critical assets and asset sets. This would include process areas, plants and even enterprises.

Empowering today’s industrial workforce with real-time operational profitability data, along with process control and real-time reliability risk information, will turn them into operations and business performance managers. Operators will be able to adjust set points and see the impact they and their adjustments are having, not only in the process, but on the profitability and reliability of the assets too.

We can therefore see that a profitable reliability approach that combines real-time reliability risk control, real-time operational profitability control and higher-level reliability management will go a long way toward helping industrial manufacturers meet their short and long-term operations, and business objectives. The result will be greater levels of operational profitability, safety, and reliability.

Written by Brad Yager, director process automation and software at Schneider Electric.

Schneider Electric and Foss and Nutrition Innovation collaborate to produce low GI sugar cane

Cutting edge industrial technology and software has been harnessed to disrupt global food and beverage manufacturing with Nucane, a healthier and cost effective sugar substitute.

Schneider Electric is collaborating with global food science company, Foss and Nutrition Innovation, to produce a low glycaemic index (GI) sugar.

Foss and Nutrition has developed a breakthrough process to produce the healthier sugar, which is called Nucane.

With this agreement, Schneider Electric, and Foss and Nutrition Innovation will collaborate to deliver this cost effective sugar production solution to sugar facilities around the globe starting in Australia.

READ: New sugarcane nutrition manual provides the A to Z of growing a healthy crop

Nucane benefits consumers and health care systems, by its potential to be a major plank in the fight against obesity, which is a major cause of chronic diseases.

Currently, a lot of mills produce sugar within a broad specification.

The unique production process involves real-time production monitoring in order to produce Nucane sugar within a very closely defined specification. Nucane is naturally high in anti-oxidants, low in GI and a dry product so it will flow in food manufacturing processes like white refined sugar.

The digitisation of the operations combined with software to analyse production data in real time, enables a new-found production accuracy. Other positive outcomes include less use of power and water-saving costs and reducing waste.

It is a globally attractive product with unique advantages over other low GI products.

Because it is still 100 per cent sugar, but enhanced by a sophisticated milling process, Nucane retains its sugar taste and that important binding ability when used in cooking.

These factors are important for replacing sugar in food or beverages.

The Nucane production process can be applied to most sugar mills worldwide which is a significant advantage for global companies and brands in the food and beverages industry.

It’s now being trialled in food products with more than 40 customers world-wide.

Schneider Electric pledges open access to proprietary weather data to aid research on global food production

Schneider Electric, the global specialist in energy management and automation, today announced its intent to provide access to data generated from its WeatherSentry weather intelligence platform as part of the UN’s Data for Climate Action campaign.

Earlier this week, Schneider Electric announced it has networked more than 4,000 disparate rural area Weather Stations to provide a more holistic view of rural weather patterns across the US; now it is making this data available to the global community.

The announcement comes at a crucial time as world leaders convene at COP21 in Paris to discuss a universal climate agreement. As a leader in weather monitoring and prediction technology, Schneider Electric’s proprietary data will be used to provide developing countries with the critical resources needed to develop solutions to assess weather impacts on agriculture and improve crop yield and soil conditions, specifically in rural communities.

The company owns and operates a network of more than 4,000 WeatherSentry stations in North America and is exploring new business models to deploy these sensors across the globe.

“Schneider Electric recognises the importance of big data in mitigating climate change, addressing the needs of farmers around the world, and aiding researchers in their quest for understanding the impact of weather on global food production,” said Ron Sznaider, Senior Vice President, Cloud Services, Schneider Electric.

“As part of our recent climate commitment pledge in line with the American Business Act on Climate, in which we pledged to invest 10 billion euros over 10 years on R&D innovation in sustainability, we also commit to work with the global research community to cooperate on big data analytics as it relates to agriculture and weather.”

Additionally, Schneider Electric is committing to collaborating with global researchers on extreme weather events, using the Schneider Electric platform and capabilities in targeted forecasting for specific sectors and clients’ needs.

Schneider Electric is joining a coalition of private sector leaders, in a campaign led by the United Nations, focused on sharing data which can be used to develop innovative climate solutions.

“We are pleased that Schneider Electric has decided to support Data for Climate Action in the fight against climate change by sharing anonymised, aggregated data for analysis to prompt climate action,” said Robert Kirkpatrick, Director of the United Nations’ Global Pulse initiative which is hosting the campaign.

“Schneider Electric’s pledge will greatly assist our efforts to bridge the technology gap between developed and developing nations by providing open data for the public good.”