Q&A: Schneider Electric Executives On How The Company's Profit Engine Helps Partners Make Money In IoT

It's All About The Money

IoT has all kinds of efficiency, safety and reliability benefits for the industrial space – but CEOs of big manufacturing floors just have one concern: money.

That's why Schneider Electric is offering its systems integrators what it calls a "Profit Engine" tool, a set of software and other capabilities aimed at helping customers optimize every asset of a plant and enabling partners to make a strong case for how IoT will not just help industrial efficiency and safety, but also profitability.

Through the company's tool, called Smart Control, the enterprise can manage and control all its business variables under a unified strategy – so management better understands what the real-time variables mean for overall profitability.

CRN sat down with Peter Martin, vice president of business innovation and marketing for process automation at Schneider Electric, and Tony Lane, the system integrator leader at Schneider Electric, to talk about what this new tool means for the channel.

What kind of adoption do you see around industrial IoT solutions in the channel?

Peter Martin: To me, I'm seeing a lot of confusion, because IoT and IIoT – there's a lot of people talking about it with a lot of opinions of what it is. It's not well defined – but there's a lot of promise. In this case, the buzz means something. And from the channel's perspective, they're looking to us to tell them what it means, in two directions – one, for them, what can they do more effectively because of this technology, and two, for their clients. They're looking for us to tell them what they can do with this new technology to make them more effective, and what their clients can do to make them effective. They need both stories because they sell to that end user.

If we can use digitization and connectivity to get them the tools they need to execute projects and deliver results, everyone wins.

Why is now the right time for IoT in the industrial market?

Tony Lane: Some people would say IoT is just another marketing buzz, we've been doing this for years and what's the big deal? We've been doing all this – but what makes it different now is the cost for any piece of data is being driven down to nothing. If it used to cost $500 to get a piece of data, you'd have to pay that, but when it's $50, there's a different criteria for if you want to do that.

The challenge is, how do you stop that data from just being a blur? How do you make sure that you extract from the fog something that gives clarity to the end user? Channel partners are wondering how to make sense of this.

What challenges do you see in the IoT space?

Peter Martin: There's a lot of the smoke that's in the air about this technology. You see people getting PhDs in connectivity or mobility – it's an immense focus on technology. The cost, size and capability of the technology has changed – it's reached a point where it no longer constrains the design. What we're trying to do with our partners, whether they're SIs or distributors, is educate them on what they need to know and what their customer can do differently. We've applied control technology to improve the efficiency of manufacturing and the safety of manufacturing.

What does the C-Suite care most about when they are pitched on IoT solutions?

Peter Martin: If you go and talk to a CEO, his first question will be, 'How does that improve my profitability?' His efficiency can improve 10 percent, and the profitability doesn't improve a nickel. We've been focusing on that problem. We've come up with patented ways of measuring the profitability of our customers right down to the piece of equipment level. For instance, if they have a pump, what's the profit contribution of that pump?

And by distributing that knowledge and that data to that point, what we're starting to learn is that this IIoT technology can enable all kinds of new solutions that we never thought of before.

Talk about Schneider Electric's profit engine and what that means for the industry.

Peter Martin: We're pushing the concept called the profit engine, and we're pushing it through our systems integrator channel, so they can go to their customers and say 'look, for 150 years the industry's been applying technology to improve efficiency, and we can help you improve profitability.'

One thing that's interesting is that for decades engineers – and I'm an engineer – have been pristine. We don't care about the business. We do things for engineering and science reasons. So what we're trying to do is bridge the gap between traditional engineering and business. Everything that an engineer and operator does either creates wealth or destroys wealth.