ERP giant SAP and industrial automation company Schneider Electric has announced that they would expand their collaboration in the field of IIoT (industrial IoT) and digital transformation, with a focus on sustainable infrastructure and easy deployment.
The two companies plan to create preconfigured deployment options for IIoT customers — so any company looking for, for example, a field service management tool using augmented reality can simply pick up and use the partnership’s preset hardware and software configuration. Shop floor operational tech integration, using digital twins for lifecycle management, is also planned.
The idea is to simplify and speed the deployment of so-calledIndustry 4.0 applications — systems that link IT such as ERP software with operational technology used in manufacturing processes — the companies said in a joint press release.
While there’s plenty of interest in Industry 4.0 among potential customers, many of those customers see design and deployment as major headaches, which has slowed the spread of newer technologies.
“Our companies align on the importance of collaboration, innovation, and open standards, making integrated information and operational technology solutions easy to consume for our joint customers,” said SAP president of industries and customer advisory Peter Maier in the statement.
Sustainability was also mentioned in the release, with the companies saying that they planned future offerings to help companies with energy management.
The fact remains, however, that Industry 4.0 is still largely in its infancy, which means that the new deal between Schneider and SAP is as much a matter of meshing cultures as it is creating new solutions, according to IDC IoT research director Marcia Walker.
“Effectively integrating the cultures of two companies is every bit as challenging as integrating the cultures of IT and OT personnel,” she said.
“I see great potential for the industrial and energy-centric perspective of Schneider Electric to complement the ERP-centric heritage of SAP. Schneider Electric has proven their ability to weave culture change into technological evolution, as evidenced by their launch of Schneider Electric University.”
The impetus for new industrial technology, moreover, carries its own dangers, said Katell Thielemann, vice president and analyst at Gartner Research. She said that, any time technology is added to existing production systems, cyber security risks are created.
“Industrial production systems are full of cyber-physical systems that need to be protected like never before, and the announcement is conspicuously silent on that front,” Thielemann said.