Schneider Electric, Accenture develop Digital Services Factory

Schneider Electric, Accenture develop Digital Service Factory

Industrial automation company Schneider Electric and management consultancy Accenture have announced the completion of a ‘virtual factory’.

Dubbed the Digital Services Factory, this new capability is intended to help Schneider Electric to quickly test and develop new IIoT product offerings.

It is a facility in which Schneider and Accenture staff will be able to generate and incubate new ideas for product offerings, such as predictive maintenance tools or asset monitoring suites, bringing them to market in less than eight months, as opposed to the three years this process typically takes.

Staff working as part of the initiative will conduct a range of activities, from designing and testing potential offerings to deploying and scaling them, as well as providing the analytics and IoT capabilities to accelerate product development.

In a blog post, Cyril Perducat, executive vice president of IoT and digital transformation at Schneider Electric, explains the benefits of working alongside Accenture. “Together, our integrated teams build intuitive and intelligent offers with analytic capabilities that allow for new levels of efficiency,” he writes. “They deliver contextual information for our customers to anticipate their needs before they know them.”

“This is a fully fleshed-out approach, from new idea development and testing, to delivery and deployment, to monitoring of post-launch analytics, done in a fraction of the time typical for this level of targeted service.”

The collaboration is part of a five-year contract awarded to Accenture in January 2016 by Schneider Electric, to assist in its development of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) services.

Read more: Progress goes cognitive-first for IIoT, who knew?

Manufacturers adopt IIoT or lose out

“We are driving the digitization of our businesses, and the Digital Factory will significantly speed up our efforts,” said Perducat. “With new capabilities like analytics, design thinking, rapid service prototyping and iteration, we are now able to bring new services to market much, much faster.”

According to research produced by Accenture earlier this year, industrial manufacturers risk losing market share because of their slow pace of digital adoption.

Two-thirds of industrial companies surveyed said they are experiencing the impact of digital disruption, but half are not yet investing in digital as part of their overall business strategy.

“Schneider Electric is aiming to cut the time from product ideation to market by 80 percent,” said Karim Chaabouni, a managing director in Accenture’s Industrial practice.

“They want to deliver innovation at every level – from connected products to network edge control to analytics, apps and services. With the new factory, they will be able to do that.”

The Digital Services Factory is part of a wider program at Schneider Electric for targeting industrial players following the recent launch of its own IIoT platform, EcoStruxure.

Read more: GE Digital’s Deborah Sherry: “Investing in IIoT always pays off.”

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Accenture argues many industrial companies still behind in connected technology adoption

New research from Accenture has found that many industrial companies are still lagging behind in adoption of digital technologies – and are at risk of losing market share if they fail to do so.

The findings come from the Accenture Technology Vision 2017 report, which saw the consulting firm survey 102 automotive executives and 562 industrial equipment executives around the world.

According to the survey, two-thirds of the respondents said they are experiencing digital disruption while half of the automotive companies and 60% of the industrial equipment companies acknowledged that they are not yet comprehensively investing in this area as part of their overall business strategy.

An overwhelming majority (94%) of industrial companies surveyed accept that digital technologies and the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) will radically change the way they need to operate if they are to succeed. They also confessed that they lack capabilities in many areas that are increasingly dependent on digital technologies, such as products-as-a-service and product lifecycle management.

Similarly, a vast majority from the automotive manufacturing and supply companies and industrial-equipment companies (95%) believe it is either critical or important to evolve business models to support a product-as-a-service strategy; while on the other hand, only 10% of the automotive companies and 18% of the industrial equipment companies believe they are well prepared for this evolution.

This research mirrors similar findings made by the Business Performance Innovation Network earlier this month, which argued that companies have ‘significant gaps’ in areas such as technical skills, data integration, and analytics capabilities. In essence, organisations realised the IIoT will form a significant part of their future, but are sleepwalking into it.

Eric Schaeffer, senior managing director and head of Accenture’s Industrial practice, said: “Industrial manufacturing companies need a comprehensive view of value creation: one that uses the power of smart services as the backbone of the end-to-end digital value chain. The prize for taking such a comprehensive view is significantly more satisfied customers – along with significantly higher revenues and operating margins.”

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