For years, industrial automation has provided the advantages of improving productivity and quality while reducing errors and waste, increasing safety, and adding flexibility to the manufacturing process. The challenges of balancing product quality and processing costs while wrestling with skilled labor shortages requires a sound technology backbone. Experts who understand how to integrate the many parts and pieces that form the industrial automation infrastructure also play a critical role in helping manufacturers to overcome these challenges.
In this new world of digital transformation, the role of systems integrators with expertise in industrial automation becomes more important than ever. Systems are more connected and data sharing is critical for executing end-to-end process optimisation. For these reasons, Schneider Electric surveyed hundreds of its industrial end users to determine their leading criteria for selecting the right systems integrator.
End users identified three main evaluation criteria:
- They prefer to work with systems integration organisations that understand their daily business issues and not only their technical installation.
- They desire a high degree of technical competence in the system integration staff engineers.
- They seek a systems integrator that is backed by a reputable technology manufacturer so that they would immediately have the needed level of support should anything go wrong.
End user feedback drives Schneider Electric Alliance Partner Program enhancements
The Schneider Electric Alliance Partner Program already provides training, sales opportunity sharing and technical support to its global pool of affiliated industrial automation systems integration partners. The certified and master partners act as the arms and legs of Schneider Electric across geographies as they sell and implement the entire architecture of EcoStruxure Industry solutions. As Schneider Electric strives to enhance the value of its solutions to the market, it is using the feedback gathered from this survey to institute several new Alliance Partner Program enhancements:
- Partner evaluation criteria – In determining whether the Alliance Partner qualifies for either the certified or master level within the program, Schneider Electric evaluates the volume of business generated, the number of projects managed, the resulting customer satisfaction, and the competency of engineers across automation technologies, including cybersecurity.
- Technology-based accreditation – Categories of desired technological expertise (badges that can be earned within the program) now include control systems, hybrid DCS, telemetry systems, safety systems, intelligent motor control, HMI/SCADA software, critical power and energy management. The technology badges are created to demonstrate that the systems integrator’s engineers have been trained and have passed exams on specific automation functions.
- Industry segment-based accreditation – The systems integrator can also be recognised as a specialist within a particular industry segment and market such as water/wastewater, consumer packaged goods, food and beverage, minerals, mining and metals as well as others. Such accreditation makes it easier for the end user to select the right integrator for their project and helps the certified system integrator to differentiate themselves from the competition.
- Sponsorship of the local in-country management team – The leaders of the various Schneider Electric industry segments in the local countries share in the evaluation process and agree to sponsor the systems integrators who qualify as certified partners. This sponsorship consists of lead sharing and joint sales efforts.
For Certified Alliance partners, the industry segment accreditation badges symbolise both a high level of competency and a deeper partner relationship. According to Mike Teller, Vice President of Schneider Electric’s Global Water and Wastewater segment, “Building a mutually supportive digital community of partners where we can share ideas and information, and identifying and providing support to local partner organisations enables our end user stakeholders to execute their Water and Wastewater projects in a highly efficient and cost-effective manner.”
Benefits accrue to both end users and partners
When engaged in sales and marketing activities across countries and regions, Schneider Electric salespeople see it as their responsibility to create demand for the services that their Alliance Partner system integrators offer. They are no longer solely focused on selling a solution to an end user, but also to sell a certified or master partner as part of the overall solution. According to Scott Pickford, President of Enterprise Automation, a Master Alliance Partner, “Pursuing Schneider Electric certifications is a significant aspect of Enterprise Automation’s business strategy. They provide us with the dual benefit of ensuring our engineers are highly proficient with a broad range of Schneider Electric technologies, and also provide us with a competitive advantage resulting in high sales success rates and increased profitability.”
New tools have been developed that allow Alliance Partners to undergo the same product training as Schneider Electric internal solutions architects. This allows end users to experience consistency when interfacing with either Schneider Electric or its designated Alliance Partner. Newly digitised opportunity sharing platforms such as “My Schneider Opportunities” are linked to Schneider Electric’s internal Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system where new opportunities can be entered, recorded and kept confidential. The same platform is used to pass qualified leads over to certified and master Alliance Partners. This two-way opportunity sharing has been very successful. Certified and master alliance partners also benefit from deeper manufacturer product discounts within the domain of their certification, which helps to make their customer proposals more competitive.
Alliance Partners are also brought into Schneider Electric’s Exchange Platform, which links end users with support needs to qualified technology experts. In the case of Exchange, Alliance partners are given preference when it comes to linking with the appropriate end users.
The new Alliance Partner Program enhancements are now beginning to bear fruit. More and more requests for proposal (RFPs) coming from both end users and specifiers are requesting involvement of Alliance certified or master level certification partners.
Moving forward, both Schneider Electric and its Alliance Partners will place increased emphasis on the important areas of industrial automation, software, data analytics and cybersecurity in order to further empower and protect end users with digitised solutions that drive productivity while reducing cost. “As an Alliance Partner we know that we have access to the best thinking within the Schneider Electric team, this provides us and our clients the confidence to undertake new and exciting innovations.” Adrian Fahey, Chief Executive Officer of SAGE Automation, a Master Alliance Partner.
Article by Madiha Khalfi, Alliance Program Director, System Integrator Channel, Process Automation Business, Schneider Electric.
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