Schneider Electric’s Smart Factory ambitions

Schneider Electric’s smart factory in Batam is proving to be one of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) showcases in Asia. This is a fact which prompts Country President for Schneider Electric in Indonesia, Xavier Denoly to say, “It’s much more than a pilot… it’s live.”

(L-R): Sirichai, Fadli and Xavier watch a demonstration of virtual reality being used by a maintenance engineer. More explanations further down the article.

Digital transformation is different for different industries and for the French energy management and automation vendor, digital transformation happened and is still happening in their manufacturing locations, and for their manufacturing operations and processes.

In Asia, they have 2 smart factory locations in Indonesia and Philippines, with more factories to be upgraded similarly in Thailand and Vietnam.

As of 2018, Schneider Electric has a total of 40 smart factories, worldwide.

VP of Supply Chain Performance in EAPJ, Sirichai Chongchintaraksa opined that the aim is to optimise the end-to-end supply chain efficiency. Besides this, they want to make assets more reliable and to integrate innovative information technologies (IT) like data analytics and IoT into manufacturing operations.

He said, “We use the same solutions we sold to our customers. And customers recognise the potential of using digitalisation.”

Industry 4.0 Showcase

So, besides being a showcase of best practices to customers that find it difficult to start their digital transformation journey, Schneider Electric itself is reaping the benefits of digitalisation. This is a journey they started in 2013, first with automation technologies, or Industry 3.0.

To date, across all the industries they sell solutions and services to, Schneider is discovering an average of 30-percent energy savings, and about 50-percent gain in production.

This is due to the Batam factory, being able to track performance of operations and having better visibility into machine performance. It was able to implement preventive maintenance as well.

Using EcoStruxure Machines and the Manufacturing Control Tower dashboard capability, plant managers can make more informed and responsive decisions to the shop floor of the factory.

EcoStruxure is a platform that basically consists of 3 layers. The first layer is about sensors that are connected, the second is around controls capability, and the third layer applies analytics to collected data and retrieves insights to generate reports.

So, it leverages technologies like IoT, mobility, sensing, cloud, analytics, automation and cybersecurity.

So far, there has been a 17-percent reduction in man-hours spent on machine maintenance and 46-percent reduction of wasted materials.

Internal and external benefits of Industry 4.0

Digital Transformation Senior Manager, Fadli Hamsani, shared that the objective of factory digitalisation is to be proactive, and act upon generated data instead of reacting to events after they happen.

“Employees can can also feel safe and secure with technologies like augmented reality (AR)” he said.

For example, with a tablet and AR, a maintenance engineer can look at points of interest (POI) without having to come into contact with the machine.

Alerts would be indicated on the AR image, as well as procedures and guides on how to fix an issue, a feature which is useful for newcomers.

The shop floor uses virtual reality (VR)  to validate designs and identity spare parts. For example there could be use of a Taiwanese OEM machine in the factory, but training on how to use it can be done via VR instead of travelling all the way to Taiwan.

Remote monitoring is another important technology being used. Denoly had shared that a tablet can visualise all the parameters of a machine and in effect guide, monitor and measure its output. Without needing to deactivate the machine or coming into contact with it, operators can get real-time readings of  machine parameters.

This greatly improves safety for machine operators.

The basics: Lean digitalisation

The Batam factory has been implementing digitalisation in phases since 2017. This is part of their move towards being a smart factory and aligns with their 2015 TSC initiative that wants to enhance Schneider Electric’s supply chain towards being Tailored, Sustainable, and Connected.

This basically involved doing something very fundamental first.

The first was to connect the whole supply chain end-to-end. Everything from suppliers of raw materials, to factories, to distribution centres, to customers, would be connected by sensors, that monitor, measure and send data back to the relevant systems.

Secondly, operations had to move from being paper-based to paperless; basically as much data as possible is digitised. From thereon, they were able to connect to their ERP or enterprise resource planning solution, which helped greatly in automating a number of processes around the supply chain, machine maintenance, warehouse, distribution and even quality management.

This greatly increases transparency of information and processes which in turn tremendously improves decision-making.

Denoly concluded, “Thanks to digitalisation, most businesses now are able to capture data so that business leaders can make better informed decisions.”