Universal automation offers growth opportunities for Integrators

Universal automation offers growth opportunities for Integrators

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Industrial firms spend millions of pounds each year supporting and servicing their industrial equipment. Yet, according to Schneider Electric, using a standardised universal automation system reduces this spending. It would benefit both plant engineers and integrators. Universal automation is a platform that decouples hardware from software to save engineering time by eliminating vendor hardware lock-in.

This benefits systems integrators as customer engagements involving proprietary systems are becoming less profitable. Integration demands a lot of non-value-added manual activities compared with actual value-added project engineering. Plant operators are hesitant to pay high rates for work which doesn’t seem to add value. Besides, end users may skip upgrading their systems because of concerns over high cost, time, and risk. For integrators this makes supporting existing systems a more difficult ongoing task than it needs to be.

Universal automation – new opportunities for integrators

Working in an open systems environment using universal automation tools also provides new opportunities for the integrator. They allow them to exercise their true expertise in addressing complex hardware and software connectivity challenges. This allows the integrators time to be more innovative in their approach.

To this end, Schneider Electric supports the existing standard IEC 61499 to develop open automation systems like EcoStruxure Automation Expert. It allows seamless integration and portability for improved user experience and event-driven systems.

Field tests have demonstrated 3 to 4 times project engineering and operational efficiency gains when compared to standard proprietary systems. For more details, see Schneider Electric white paper “A Quantitative Comparison of Digitized Industrial Automation Systems”.

Software-centric automation systems have advantages for integrators and plant owners. For example, by decoupling the hardware from the software allows upgrading of the hardware platform without affecting the application programmed in software. This makes changing or upgrading controllers much simpler.

Moreover, upgrades no longer need ‘rip and replace’ of hardware. Portability of applications between many vendors and platforms is much simpler and integration of third-party systems is far less costly and time consuming. EcoStruxure Automation Expert makes hardware infrastructure less about single function devices and more about managing them as a processing resource. As a result, users can reduce their capital costs and use less time to do more when building new systems.

Benefit for system integrators

Why should EcoStruxure Automation Expert be of interest to systems integrators? Reducing systems integration complexity also reduces end user cost and opens the door to more system integration projects. These new generation industrial automation systems enable more agile, flexible, connected architectures. They reduce the system integrator’s capital costs, and the time needed to propose, install, and test changes is much lower. Hence the continuous improvement work of the system integrator takes less time. In summary, both the system integrators and their customers work within a much more efficient system development and deployment process.

To understand how universal automation helps systems integrators to lower project costs and shortening project timelines, download the Schneider Electric e-guide.


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