Schneider Electric Aims To Reinvent Itself In U.S. Through Software, Services Play

As it celebrates the opening of its new North American headquarters and R&D hub in Andover, Mass., Schneider Electric said its focus on the U.S. market is sharper than ever.

Speaking Thursday at its 2014 Influencer Summit, the energy management specialist said it has big plans to present the "new face of Schneider Electric" -- one marked by an emphasis on software and services -- to its U.S. customer base.

"We are making a statement that we want to invest in the U.S.," said Laurent Vernerey, president and CEO of Schneider Electric's North America Operations, speaking at the event in the new Andover facility.

Related: Intel: Customization Key To Transforming The Data Center

Sponsored post

The new center, officially opened Wednesday, is called Schneider's "Boston One Campus." Touting more than 240,000 square feet and spanning two buildings, the facility is serving as both Schneider's new research and innovation hub and its new North American headquarters.

Previously, Schneider's North American headquarters was based in Illinois. Its global headquarters are in France.

Schneider's Boston One Campus, built to house 750 employees, also will serve as a showcase, of sorts, of Schneider's own sustainability technologies; the campus runs roughly $8 million worth of Schneider's own gear, which is expected to slash operating costs by 30 percent in the facility's first year, the company said.

Above all, though, the new facility underscores Schneider's commitment to growing its business, and strengthening its brand, in the U.S., Vernerey said. He noted that while customers tend to recognize Schneider's flagship brands, such as APC, the breadth of the company's portfolio is still widely unrecognized.

"We are like a $35 billion startup, and nobody knows what we really do," Vernerey said.

The way Schneider plans on changing that, he said, is by attacking specific U.S. verticals and shifting its focus from equipment to software and services.

The verticals Schneider will target, Vernerey said, are water and wastewater; oil and gas; and utilities. Markets like these are expected to be early adopters of the Internet of Things, an emerging trend that leverages sensors and wireless technology so that everyday "things" can communicate with one another.

Like other IT giants, such as Cisco Systems and Dell, Schneider said it views the Internet of Things as a major opportunity, and one that will drive demand for its energy management, smart grid and building automation solutions.

Meanwhile, Vernerey said, software will play a critical role in Schneider's U.S. offensive. He said the company, in general, is investing more in software, such as its StruxureWare platform for optimizing energy performance, and its telemetry systems, for remotely monitoring and controlling field operations.

Vernerey noted that Schneider also is building out a portfolio of stand-alone software, rather than software that just comes integrated with its hardware. Schneider's Resource Advisor analytics software, which is used to track the progress of an organization's energy and sustainability programs, is an example of this, he said.

Scheinder's focus on software comes as one of its biggest target markets -- the data center -- makes a pivot itself toward software via trends like virtualization and software-defined networking (SDN).

Schneider, lastly, is looking to bolster awareness of its services offerings in the U.S. According to Vernerey, Schneider today has 12,000 service delivery professionals, 250 service centers and 15 service bureaus around the world.

The U.S., to be fair, is by no means an untapped market for Schneider. The company said $6 billion of its total $35 billion in sales last year came from the U.S., and that it already has 20,000 employees in the country. Still, Vernerey said, there is work to be done.

"We have to work on making this big Schneider Electric startup be recognized," he said.