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"One-Schneider" launches Energy UniversityLast week, I attended Schneider Electric's Analysts Conference in Newport, Rhode Island. I was there in my automation-analyst role, along with ARC and Frost & Sullivan, and the likes of Gartner and IDC from the IT industry.
Several key executives were there. It was interesting to note the eclectic executive mix included just one genuine Frenchman, dynamic Laurent Vernerey, who acquired Citect in Australia and is now CEO of APC. Other key international executives included Chris Curtis, CEO of the North American Operating Division; Jose Rivera, Senior VP Strategy for Automation; Aaron Davis, ex-APC and now Chief Marketing Officer for Schneider; and Paul Hamilton, (ex-Modicon) VP for the Energy Efficiency Program.
For the year-end 2008 Schneider had revenues over $ 25B, 6% growth (10% annual average), with earnings of $ 3.8B up 7.5%. These are significant results, considering the current recessionary environment.
Schneider is based in France, with an interesting history dating back to 1836. Its conversion from an old-line company came through the imagination and drive of Henri Lachmann, now Chairman of the Supervisory Board. The current CEO, Jean-Pascal Tricoire (46) is a dynamic executive whose enthusiasm and drive resonates through all the Schneider people we met. His key focus: "Our business is to make energy safe, reliable, efficient, productive, and green, 'from plant to plug(TM)'."
The new "One Schneider" program provides focus for the company's many different acquisitions and brands. Business managers are judged by strict metrics which include success in achieving the integrations and branding to the new Schneider vision. An inter-company R&D team has been created to foster technology transfers among the various business units.
Gary Mintchell, Editor of Automation World, attended the editor's day meeting which followed the Analysts conference. Gary wrote in his blog:
"The latest large acquisition of APC (power and UPS systems) proves the point. Instead of trying to superimpose the Schneider culture on it, they allowed themselves to absorb the APC culture. Indeed, the corporate chief marketing officer, Aaron Davis, comes from APC and most of the corporate (this means for the entire company) marketing team is from APC."
Paul Hamilton has a new role as Senior VP of Schneider's Energy & Solution University. After all the (perhaps polite) positive commentary for visiting analysts and editors, I pointedly asked Paul, "So, what's wrong with Schneider Electric?".
Paul's response: "Of course, there is a lot wrong here as there is with any company. What's different is the transparent attitude and the single minded commitment that we have a unique skill set and position in the marketplace that will allow us to separate ourselves from the traditional competition. Unlike much of the negative commentary you see in your weblogs, you will not find a lot of people in Schneider Electric condemning the past or the present. We are focused on the future and our belief that we can build new value around energy management for our customers and business value to our investors."
And then Paul Hamilton, who joined Schneider through the acquisition of Modicon over a decade ago, explained why he is still enthusiastic about the company, "After many years and many changes this is still a fun place to work!"
Future of the InternetWhile PCs were once the primary means of accessing the Internet, we're now seeing Internet-enabled devices such as PDAs and cell phones that access the Web. Soon, everything from your car to your refrigerator will be connected to the global network, machine-to- machine (M2M) to provide new functionality.
Here is what the Internet will look like in 2020:
Here's a major problem which few recognize: IPods, iPhones, Xboxes, and TiVos represent the first wave of "tethered appliances" that cannot easily be modified by anyone except their vendors or selected partners. These are already being used to control users' behaviors in insidious ways: GPS systems can be reconfigured to eavesdrop on users; TiVO reports what you've been watching; cellphone emails can be monitored; Google and Facebook applications can be controlled from a central source, making censorship easy. The very nature of the Internet - its innovative character - is at risk.
Several emerging technologies are being developed by a consortium of about 300 members - US educational institutions, corporations and government agencies. Known as Internet2, this spans the globe with hundreds of high-speed networks linked by fiber optic backbones.
Internet2 transmits data at speeds up to 100 gigabits per second, some 1000 times faster than today's cable-modems. This allows many real-world, high speed applications, and makes way for 21st century services like interactive television, virtual 3-D videoconferencing, and other new-generation applications.
Beyond just providing network capacity, Internet2 actively engages in development of important new technology including middleware, network research and performance measurement capabilities which are critical to the progress of the primary Internet. A key feature will be Security: to monitor, filter and limit all traffic on the network. High-speed networks will make it possible to work in ways never possible before.
Future of Social WelfareWhat is a welfare state? The simple answer is a government that provides for the total well-being of all its citizens.
The welfare state is somewhat "socialist" in nature. It redistributes wealth by heavily taxing the middle and upper classes in order to provide goods and services for those seen as underprivileged.
One of the greatest challenges of sustainable growth is to combine the desires for economic prosperity and social security - reconciling the power of free markets with the reassuring protections of social insurance.
Most advanced nations are not true welfare states, although many provide at least some social services or entitlement programs designed to help the most vulnerable.
This debate is clouded by ideology and vested interests. "Supply-siders" claim that the best way to achieve well-being for the poor is by spurring rapid economic growth which "trickles down". They usually insist that the higher taxes needed to fund high levels of social insurance cripples prosperity.
The Achilles-heel of Democracy is that the rich control the media to manipulate the middle-class, and the poor don't vote, and so power gravitates to wealth. In an Autocracy, welfare is seen as benevolence of the power structure.
In most rich societies, poverty is viewed as the result of personal failures and deficiencies. This perception rests on several myths: Poverty results from a lack of responsibility; Welfare leads to chronic dependency; it provides a disincentive to work and a set of defective values and personality traits. For some, even the term "welfare" is a pejorative.
These negative myths and stereotypes reinforce the agenda to cut welfare spending, and true reform will continue to be ineffective if we do not separate myth from fact.
There are 3 key issues in the welfare and social security debate which have profound implications:
Industrial countries have undergone sharp declines in fertility; only America has retained a positive replacement rate, primarily because of immigration. For Europe and other "first-world" countries, the economic consequences of this trend with social welfare programs are calamitous.
The swings from the perceived benevolence of "socialism" to the misunderstood malevolence of "capitalism" will continue in the future. Perhaps forever.
High-value ManufacturingThe age of large factories is over. Today's markets are consumption limited, not production limited. In the new paradigm, mass-produced components are shipped to small, widely dispersed factories that assemble finished products locally to meet custom requirements at the point of sale.
Manufacturing matters. A national economy begins to decline as its wealth-producing sectors shrink: manufacturing, mining and agriculture. Other parts of the economy - government, banking, information services, education, insurance, health care, consumer services - maintain and use physical wealth, but do not create it. They depend on manufacturing and other wealth-producing sectors for their growth.
American manufacturing is historically responsible for the relatively higher standard of living enjoyed by Americans compared to other countries, and a thriving manufacturing base is necessary to allow that trend to continue.
How can the US economy be strong if Manufacturing is weak? The paradoxical answer is that the decline in the share of manufacturing jobs - deindustrialization of the US economy - is actually a sign of strength, not weakness.
As with agriculture 100 years before, the drop in employment in Manufacturing stems from spectacular productivity growth. Over the last three decades, improved automation has churned out manufactured goods with ever-increasing efficiency. The US economy no longer needs lots of factory workers for the same reason it no longer needs lots of farmers - it can produce what it requires with far fewer people.
The question quickly becomes: how to redeploy the vast numbers of people displaced from conventional jobs in large, central factories? Recessions, however unpleasant, are cathartic, and therefore necessary. They release capital and labor from profitless activities as an essential prelude to redeploying them elsewhere. The challenge today is re-deploying our "labor" force to lead the world in new manufacturing directions.
Manufacturing high-value products doesn't mean simply cutting, shaping, assembling. We must focus our prowess not on manufacturing commodities, but rather on becoming innovators and specialists in new types of high-value manufacturing such as nano-assembly, micro-mechanical systems, chemical engineering or bio mechanisms.
Book: Automation Made EasyIndustrial Automation is a complex mixture of many different types of instruments, systems, hardware, software and services - in many different types of applications.
If you're confused or perplexed, this new book by two experienced automation experts will help. Dr. Peter Martin, Vice President of Invensys Process Systems, has teamed up with Gregory Hale, Editor of ISA's InTech magazine, to publish a new book, "Automation Made Easy: Everything You Wanted to Know about Automation - and Need to Ask".
Peter Martin has authored numerous published articles and technical papers, has written two automation books and holds multiple patents. He was named one of Fortune magazine's Hero of US Manufacturing, and was also named as one of the "50 Most Influential Innovators of All Time" by ISA.
Gregory Hale is the editor of InTech magazine, the official publication of ISA, the International Society of Automation. Prior to becoming editor of InTech in 1999, Greg Hale had extensive editorial, web, and management experience.
This easy-to-read book provides a basic functional understanding about industrial automation. The authors break down the barriers and confusion surrounding technical details and terminology. They provide an introductory-level approach, ideal for executives, business, marketing, advertising and sales managers, IT and maintenance people, production planners, accounting managers. Here's an in-depth but easy overview for people new to the field who want to be quickly educated.
Everything You Wanted to Know about Automation-and Need to Ask
eFeedbackJohn E. Blaesi [John.E.Blaesi@conocophillips.com] is passionate about the future of energy:
"Come on guys, think outside the box, make the unimaginable happen. Who would have thought 25 years ago that today I could hold 16,000 floppies on a device smaller than my little finger. Look where we could be now if we had funded and sustained research on alternate fuels since the 'gas crunch' of the 70's. We may run out of any one form of energy or another, but there will also be energy on Earth - if man takes the steps to utilize and conserve."
"There will be two things different about war in the future (and now). First, it is non-symmetric. Fanatics are willing to blow themselves up even if they know they cannot destroy the enemy militarily. They are willing to die to cause damage which will upset the enemy's electorate, please their own god, or whatever. The guy who blows up a police station with dynamite would not be deterred from blowing up a city with a nuclear bomb, assuming he got one from the North Koreans or someone else.
"Second, war is very transparent. This means that our side cannot incinerate thousands of civilians as we did at Dresden; summarily execute enemies caught in acts of terror without uniforms, as we did with German spies on Long Island; drop artillery at random into middle class neighborhoods, as the US Army did in 1863 at Charleston; or burn thousands of enemies' homes to the ground as General Sherman did in 1864. Our 'non-symmetric' enemies know this.
"Accordingly, we can no have wars with an objective which we can pursue with single-minded determination to quickly bring victory. Instead, we have endless munge-ing and bumbling, going to and fro trying to root out a few terrorists from friendly (to them) civilian populations. Such wars go on seemingly forever, exhausting the stronger power financially and emotionally, until at last the stronger power's population demands that they give up and lose. This happened to us in Viet Nam, and to the USSR in Afghanistan. It will probably happen to us in Iraq and Afghanistan unless we are willing to obliterate some parts (which is what we would have done in WWII), or come up with some other model."
"Dr. Popper also talked about how our lab results (like Cholesterol and Sugar) should be something that is bragged about. Our lab results should be an important part of our life. I was thinking that 'Super Labs' will become part of our future. We need to get our lab work done quarterly (not yearly). Clinical labs need to be able to process millions of lab results for just pennies. We need Super Labs! Lab results are the largest preventative measure.
"Also, will exercise be blended into our lifestyles more frequently? Hopefully, people will invent ways to get exercise into our daily lives. It is so hard to make time for exercise."
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