At Schneider, ‘Small Steps’ Led to a Lighthouse

Schneider Electric’s Lexington, KY, plant is one of only a handful of manufacturing facilities in the U.S. that enjoys the coveted status of being a World Economic Forum-designated “Lighthouse” factory. To achieve that distinction, the Lexington plant, built in 1957, had to address some very basic operational issues.

In a presentation yesterday at Rethink, the Manufacturing Leadership Council Summit conference, Kenneth Labhart, North America Innovation Leader at Schneider, said that one of the issues that had to be addressed was the plant’s inability to share data from the plant floor that could be used to improve operational performance.

By adopting M4.0 technologies and approaches, including IoT, cloud, mobility, and analytics, the Lexington team focused on transforming the facility’s connectivity and integration platforms to break down silos and allow its teams to share data more easily. Those transformation projects have already resulted in a 26% reduction in energy spend, mean-time-to-repair reductions of 20%, the elimination of paper processes, and a five percent reduction in downtime.

The initiative was part of a smart factory program that began in 2017. Today, 80 Schneider factories have deployed a digital transformation roadmap.

But Labhart was clear that the company’s digital transformation had its challenges, chief among which were employee pushback, executive leadership buy-in, and expertise in digital technologies.

Schneider was able to overcome these challenges using a careful approach. “It is very important to take small steps,” Labhart said.

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