SMALL- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are getting more help to automate their businesses, in the form of an automation starter pack of services, hardware and software launched by Schneider Electric on Wednesday.
Unveiled at the SME Go Automation Singapore 2019 event, the SME Jumpstart Automation Package will use augmented reality (AR) and cloud-based monitoring to improve machine management and maintenance for SMEs and get them started on the automation journey.
SMEs spend nearly as much time searching for information to perform maintenance as they do conducting the actual intervention on the equipment, said Schneider Electric, a French multinational company that specialises in energy management and automation.
The automation package aims to help SMEs find critical information more quickly by converting technical documents and diagrams into PDF files so they are easy to retrieve from an online database, for example. Workers will also be able to virtually open electrical cabinet doors to access hidden parts of machines during operation, and at the same time, receive step-by-step instructions to guide their maintenance activities.
Other components of the package will enable SMEs to leverage digital learning tools to transform the workforce and remotely track machines and performance data while reducing support costs by up to 50 per cent.
"Acceptance and adoption of automation technology among SMEs require not just a review of existing operations, but a consistent and concerted effort to drive adoption of these solutions," said Urvil Modi, vice-president of industry automation for Schneider Electric Singapore and Malaysia.
"At Schneider Electric, we see ourselves as an enabler for SMEs to take their first step in automation. A scalable automation package is important to help SMEs ensure that their transformation process is sustainable."
Schneider Electric will work with the company to identify the parts of the business to be automated and customise the solutions to suit its needs. For example, the EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor (AOA) component of the package includes an assessment of the SME's current state of automation, a site survey and configuration proposal, licenses and hands-on training for AR and human-machine interface software, and tablets and monitors to access that software.
The AOA is meant to improve overall machine efficiency, reduce downtime and human errors, speed up operation and maintenance, and improve worker competency and efficiency.
Later on, a reassessment will be conducted to determine if the solution is working well, and Schneider Electric will deploy additional services if necessary.
Companies will also get subscription-based access to the EcoStruxure Machine Advisor, which will help them to manage their machines by monitoring machine statuses, logging service and maintenance activities, and planning and executing preventive maintenance.
Benefits of using the Machine Advisor include a 3 to 5 per cent increase in productivity and a 30 to 50 per cent reduction in machine downtime, Schneider Electric said.