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Industrial Enterprises to Achieve Step Change Operational Improvements with New Category of Software-centric Automation System

Boston, MA, USA

11/10/2020

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- Schneider Electric introduces EcoStruxure™ Automation Expert, world’s first software-centric industrial automation system
- Calls on industry to embrace “universal automation” through widespread adoption of open standards in order to unleash innovation and boost efficiency, resilience, productivity, agility and sustainability
- Plug-and-produce approach to system engineering drives greater return-on-investment for automation platforms

Schneider Electric, the leader in the digital transformation of energy management and automation, has accelerated its drive to help customers unlock the full potential of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).  Promising to unleash a new wave of innovation by championing the widespread adoption of open automation standards, Schneider Electric unveiled its vision for universal automation and the first of its kind EcoStruxure™ Automation Expert, a new category of software-centric industrial automation system.

Industrial operations are undergoing a game-changing transformation. Advances in machine learning, augmented reality, real-time analytics and the IIoT hold great promise for industrial enterprises and manufacturers to meet the demands of today’s agile and digital world.

However, realizing this promise is limited by closed and proprietary automation platforms that restrict the adoption of best-of-class technologies, present challenges to integrate third-party components and are expensive to upgrade and maintain. While information technology has adopted open platforms and is rapidly evolving, the same cannot be said for industrial technology. Industry has suffered from a lack of adaptability, modularization and interoperability, which is stunting innovation.

Schneider Electric believes the time is right for a bold move in industrial automation and is calling on industrial users, vendors, OEMs, systems integrators and EPCs across industry to embrace universal automation.

Universal automation

Universal automation is the world of plug-and-produce automation software components based on the IEC61499 standard that solve specific customer problems in a proven way. Adoption of an IEC61499-based standardized automation layer, common across vendors, will provide limitless opportunities for growth and modernization across industry.

By greatly extending the capabilities of existing IEC61131-based systems and enabling an app-store-like model for automation software components, Schneider Electric believes that the advancements possible in the Industrial internet of Things will be fully realized. As its benefits become visible, Schneider Electric believes other vendors will adopt the universal automation approach, and end users will soon begin to demand it from their automation suppliers and ecosystem.

EcoStruxure Automation Expert: Transforming industrial operations

Schneider Electric delivers on the universal automation vision with the release of EcoStruxure Automation Expert. The first universal automation offering based on the IEC61499 standard begins a new era of software-centric, interoperable industrial automation.

“The IT world has realized the benefits of open operating platforms; now it’s industry’s turn,” said Andre Babineau, Automation Expert Solution Management Director, Schneider Electric. “Industrial automation architectures have done a good job of advancing industry to where we are today, but they are not capable of providing the agility and resilience that are paramount for modern industrial operations. To fully realize the promise of the Industrial Internet of Things, we need to reimagine our technology model by opening our platforms, decoupling software from hardware, and radically improving system agility and scalability.”

EcoStruxure Automation Expert is a new category of industrial automation system with IEC61499 at its core. EcoStruxure Automation Expert:

  1. Enables automation applications to be built using asset-centric, portable, proven-in-use software components, independent of the underlying hardware infrastructure.
  2. Allows the user to distribute applications to any system hardware architecture of choice —highly distributed, centralized, or both — with minimal to no additional programming effort.
  3. Supports established software best practices to simplify the creation of automation applications that interoperate with IT systems.

The first release of EcoStruxure Automation Expert supports traditional automation platforms, such as Modicon™ PLCs, and Altivar™ Variable Speed Drives and industrial PCs. For the first time, complex multi-drive control algorithms can be programmed and distributed to the drive controller without the need for a central PLC. Completing the line-up, a virtualized software controller running in Docker®-powered Linux containers supports distributed information and control systems across edge computing architectures.

Leveraging the object-oriented nature of IEC61499, software components known as Composite Automation Types (CATs) are used to model assets by combining real-time control functions with other facets, such as the human machine interface. This asset-centric approach delivers unprecedented cost and performance gains and frees engineers to innovate by automating low-value work and eliminating task duplication across tools. Benchmarking of EcoStruxure Automation Expert against today’s automation systems has demonstrated a 2 to 7X reduction in the time it takes to perform traditional automation tasks.

EcoStruxure Automation Expert’s support for mainstream IT best practices enables step-change improvements in asset and workforce efficiency using advanced technologies like predictive maintenance, digital twin and others. The system also reduces total cost of ownership by incorporating legacy systems with a wrap-and-reuse approach.

“EcoStruxure Automation Expert is the first step in the journey toward universal automation,” said Fabrice Jadot, Senior Vice President, next generation automation, Schneider Electric. “To fully realize the potential of next-generation industries, we must embrace a new way of thinking. Working to common, open standards is vital to ensuring multivendor interoperability and seamless interfaces from supply chain through manufacturing and production to the end customer. Now is the time for all vendors to fully embrace open implementations with code and function portability to become more connected. Today is the first step in a new direction. We invite industrial developers everywhere to create their own software components and solutions based on the IEC61499 standard, which can easily interoperate with EcoStruxure Automation Expert.”

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