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Opinion piece – The future is integrated

By Jacques Squire, Water & Wastewater Segment Lead, Southern Africa,
International Operations, Schneider Electric

In a time when uncertainty has (unfortunately) become the new normal, organisations are increasingly looking at ways to improve their CAPEX and OPEX, driven by challenges such as compliance obligations, safety risk and technology applications.

At the top of this challenge heap, so to speak, is deploying and leveraging automation and control that yields CAPEX efficiency. This, coupled with quicker start up means company owners and operators must find a way to overcome increasing system complexity.

In operational environments, seamless integration provides an answer. It is not only the glue that links software to control and field devices but also an enabler of greater agility, flexibility and quality.

The above will also allow organisations to weather a multitude of storms. Major disruptions have been experienced across the world due to the fallout of the pandemic and have been catastrophic where operations lacked agility.

Furthermore, maintenance inefficiencies can jeopardise operations, asset reliability and longevity. All of these impact OPEX levels and efficiency which is why integration is a non-negotiable next move.

Actionable insight from integrated operations has the potential to transform businesses while reducing risk. Unfortunately, it remains elusive to many; whilst organisations pursue modernisation, IT and OT convergence and enterprise connectivity, the integration of the control layer is still lacking.

Integrated Control and Software Solutions

To overcome organisations’ integration challenges, they must turn to integrated control and software solutions. This technology advancement integrates control with supervision to facilitate seamless data flow between the control and software layers.

Integrated control and software solutions address the following key integration challenges:

• Communication - modern control systems need high performance, cyber-secure links between many control assets and supervision systems;
• Engineering - duplication of engineering represents risk; and
• Standardisation - standard blocks to connect to control assets and to interface to software applications provide rapid and reliable integration across the whole control system.

In the case of Schneider Electric, we have partnered with AVEVA to offer Integrated Control and Software Solutions that integrate control with supervision to allow for continuous data flow between the control and software layers.

As a real-world example, utilities across the world are faced with reducing non-revenue water (NRW) and addressing water loss. The reality is until NRW is minimised, utilities will continue to suffer infrastructure damage, poor resource management and service, potential loss of pressure and higher energy bills.

Hydraulic simulation software such as Schneider Electric’s Integrated Water Network Management (WNW) delivers a digital twin solution that give water utilities:

• Real-time visibility of the network for enhanced operational efficiency; and
• Reduced NRW, therefore the ability to plan maintenance more effectively, extend asset life, optimise water pressure (and thus reduced energy consumption) and benefit from accurate forecasting using what-if scenarios.

For example, Italian utility, Acqua Novara leveraged our Water Management Suite (WMS) and WNM, integrated with edge control solutions to achieve 10% water loss reduction and 15% water supply energy consumption reduction.

The future is integrated

There is no doubt that an integrated control and software solution will resonate with operations across a multitude of sectors. For example, it combines menu-based software with cyber-secure controls to reduce project design and cost, and improve operational flexibility and effectiveness.

Moreover, design and operations teams can leverage already-tested and validated reusable assets codes libraries to reduce project errors, as well as time and cost-to-deploy.

Ultimately, operations teams will benefit from the seamless integration with more efficient maintenance and the ability to deliver continuous improvement through greater agility and flexibility that comes from a more holistic and accurate view of data flow.

About Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric is leading the digital transformation of energy management and automation in homes, buildings, data centres, infrastructure and industries. With global presence in over 100 countries, Schneider is the undisputable leader in power management – medium voltage, low voltage and secure power, and in automation systems. We provide integrated efficiency solutions, combining energy, automation and software. In our global ecosystem, we collaborate with the largest partner, integrator and developer community on our open platform to deliver real-time control and operational efficiency. We believe that great people and partners make Schneider a great company and that our commitment to innovation, diversity and sustainability ensures that Life Is On everywhere, for everyone and at every moment.

For more information, go to www.se.com/za/en/
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