Digitalization Best Practices Implementation of IIoT Technology:Vision Becomes Strategy

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is seemingly everywhere in the process industries, but implementing these powerful technologies may seem overwhelming.

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Peter Herweck of Schneider Electric shows many of the capabilities of the EcoStruxure Plant Architecture.
Peter Herweck of Schneider Electric shows many of the capabilities of the EcoStruxure Plant Architecture.

Peter Herweck, executive vice president, Industry Business, and member of the executive committee at Schneider Electric, provides some insight about Schneider Electric’s role in IIOT implementation from process design to predictive maintenance to cybersecurity. “With respect to an IIOT platform, you have to think about what the customer wants to achieve,” says Herweck. There is no doubt that the myriad IIoT and data-driven technologies currently on the market can provide competitive advantages to customers, but proper deployment is key to realizing their impact. “Looking at end-to-end software from process design to operating, maintaining and optimizing a process plant, we have been able to close the loop.

We have combined the technologies into one company,” says Herweck, referring to Schneider’s acquisition of Invensys and combination with Aveva. And while the potential capabilities of advanced software and IIoT products are indeed impressive, these capabilities must be proven in a practical setting. Adds Herweck: “We are working with customers to have sample applications earlier. It’s easy to paint a vision of what things will look like in a few years. The question is, what are the steps that bring us there, and can we commercialize some of the steps in between?” For example, Schneider Electric has developed an example of a 3D model of an entire plant, with attendant realtime data.

From this 3D model, engineers can analyze operational data and put in work orders as needed. “It’s only a matter of time until we are also able to simulate a potential change for the virtual plant before we do it in the operating plant. We’ll see it in the foreseeable future. This is now a strategy to be implemented, not just a vision,” explains Herweck. Also crucial to realizing the vision of IIoT is cybersecurity. According to Herweck, Schneider Electric offers cybersecurity audits of users’ sites to evaluate equipment and procedures, and from these audits, they develop a catalog of recommended improvements and personnel training to ensure optimally secure operations.