Data Center

CEO Chris Curtis Interview: Xperience Efficiency Event is Likely to Surprise

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During the opening keynote address of Schneider Electric’s Xperience Efficiency 2013 event in Washington, D.C. early this month, Chris Curtis, CEO of North American Operations for Schneider Electric, told the audience they may see many things they have never seen before. “The capability of this company and our people will probably surprise you,” Curtis said.

Xperience Efficiency 2013 is intended to demonstrate the many ways in which Schneider Electric can help companies become more efficient in the way they use energy. But in his keynote and a follow-up interview, Curtis made clear that the stakes are far higher than merely saving on the corporate energy bill.

One issue is increasing corporate agility, which is a requirement in the face of an uncertain economic recovery that forces companies to be able to react quickly to market forces. “The whole idea of focusing on efficiency is to make a company agile,” Curtis says. “How do they make the best utilization of their assets and resources? How do they use less [energy] to conduct business?  How do we help them control costs that maybe in the past weren’t controllable?”

Companies are asking Schneider to make energy perform for them, and without a heavy capital investment, he says.  Accomplishing that requires you first make energy “visible,” so you can understand how you’re using energy. Next, you need to put it under control, which is accomplished in varying ways depending on the exact application. “Then we automate it,” Curtis says, to ensure the controls stay in place. Finally, ongoing verification and monitoring ensures the strategy makes sense over the long haul.

Curtis also noted companies have “tons of data but molehills of information,” and are turning to Schneider Electric to help them make sense of it all.  Imagine a large company with lots of facilities, all feeding data to a single repository. “We have the software platforms and analytical platforms to help them consolidate that data but more importantly figure out how to recognize a pattern of inefficiency and turn it into a pattern of efficiency,” he says. The platforms can help companies alleviate loads during peak times of the day or year, to avoid shortages and peak charges for energy; other platforms perform similar functions for utilities and homeowners.

Efficiency, however, is just one challenge that companies face with respect to energy, and thus is only one item on the menu that Schneider presents at Xperience Efficiency, Curtis notes. “Energy efficiency is important to everybody, but depending on the end customer, it might not be the first challenge they face,” he says. For data center customers, for example, the first challenge is likely reliability of energy, an issue with which Schneider Electric has extensive experience, while efficiency is a secondary requirement.

“We’re just really glad we have a chance to get these many people in front of us not only here in the U.S. but around the world, to really kind of hear a story about Schneider Electric,” Curtis says in our follow-up interview. “The company has terrific capability that I’m not sure everybody knows about so we’re looking forward to getting our story out.”

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