It is now undeniable – diversity is critical to business success, particularly in this new age of digital transformation. Every industrial company must be committed to creating an inclusive community; a hub from which different ethnic, gender, education, and age backgrounds can exchange ideas and let innovation and new thinking flourish.
Too often, across process industries, transformational teams are staffed exclusively with like-minded, culturally similar individuals who mean well and who are extremely knowledgeable of the current processes, but who lack the perspective to generate true change. In such an environment, out-of-the-box thinking is difficult to achieve.
For diversity-energized modernization efforts to succeed, industrial organizations will need to recalibrate both how they integrate their people into the digital transformation process, and how they forge new partner ecosystems. The current way in which technology vendors support industrial customers is quite varied. At one end of the spectrum, less successful vendors work alone, providing the technology, integrations, and services directly to the end user. On the other end, providers who are generating strong business growth take advantage of a diverse partner network to drive forward innovation.
If the industrial marketplace is to realize its full potential, break free of its current constraints, and effectively embrace automation, then corporate stakeholders within industry must engineer a complete shift to a more collaborative partner ecosystem model. We must learn from the limitations of the previous decades and make diversity of partners a central pillar within this new ecosystem so that innovation can thrive.
For this collaborative model to take hold within industry, some pre-requisites are needed. First, technology vendors must offer products, software, and solutions that are open and interoperable. Second, a network of trusted partners must be assembled that is capable of locally implementing modern digital technology efficiently and in a collaborative manner.
Embracing diversity to drive innovation and digital transformation
The marketplace needs technology vendors to invest heavily in R&D and to create complete portfolios of industrial products, services, software, and solutions that embrace the notion of universal automation (the world of hardware decoupled from software and “plug and produce” automation software components).
While the vendors have to create the technology innovations that help to drive the industry, delivering the solutions to the market will involve the collaboration of several organizations that make up the “ecosystem of partners.” Below is a partial list:
- Distributors who offer product availability, proximity, and support. More customers, from machine manufacturers to end-users will expect distributors to add value in the form of knowledge and technical support.
- System and machine integrators who put forward their knowledge of the end user and machine manufacturers needs and processes. This includes knowledge of specific applications, as well as a unique understanding of a given customer and the existing technology install base.
- Panel builders who bring the efficiency, knowledge, quality, and compliance needed in the electrical world.
- Etc, etc …
Traditionally, choosing the right partner has been a daunting and time-consuming exercise for end users. Today, however, technology providers, like Schneider Electric, approve and classify their distributors, integrators, and other partners according to product knowledge, service record, application knowledge, and industrial segment knowledge. For example, BPX, a Schneider Electric Alliance Master Partner and Industrial Automation Distributor based in the UK, is staffed with a team of dedicated sales and technical experts who serve OEMs and end users in the Consumer Packaged Goods and Water / Wastewater segments.
Another Schneider Electric Alliance Master Partner, Raster Industrial Automation (part of the ICT Group), specialists in process automation, motion and safety, in the Oil & Gas, Chemicals, and Metals industries, understands that in complex projects, access to the right technical resources is key. According to Claudia van Batenburg, Raster’s Business Development Manager “These days, when it comes to systems integration within industrial environments, no one organization can do it alone. Who you know, and the resources you have access to via your ecosystem of partners, is what serves as a key marketplace differentiator. This is why our Alliance Partner relationship with Schneider Electric is so important to us and our customers.”
An extended and diverse ecosystem of such partners, allows both machine manufacturers and end users to be much more confident that they are accessing the right partner for the job. At the same time, they embrace greater project diversity and therefore, increase the chances of introducing new thinking and innovation into the digital transformation project.
A diverse network in action
Over the last year, due to marketplace evolution and the global pandemic, we have seen an increasing need for industrial automation remote operations. This business need provides a great illustration of how the right ecosystem of partners can help make remote monitoring and remote asset management a viable option for most industrial applications.
Distributors have stepped up with the technical knowledge needed to choose the right solution and to provide pre-packaged simple solutions for the “mass market.” This has included solutions from remote operations of a single machine or a set of machines, to remote operations of a plant, to remote operations of several plants. System integrators have played their role by providing complete solutions, adapted to the unique needs of specific customers. Panel builders have contributed by designing solutions that offer built-in connectivity for easy remote management of electrical infrastructure.
Investing in a diverse ecosystem
At Schneider Electric, we are committed to diversity in every aspect of our work. By employing a global and diverse workforce and a diverse and highly specialized network of certified Alliance Partners, we help our customers to achieve their business transformation goals. By accessing our Alliance partner network, companies can open their doors to new knowledge from across the industry, enabling them to more quickly drive forward innovation and digital transformation.