Energy management and digitisation are two solutions which could help businesses across Asia recover from the impact of the pandemic
Written by: Dani Redd
The current recorded global death toll for coronavirus stands at more than 900,000. But it is not just the human cost that is a cause for concern – the pandemic is also costing millions of people their livelihoods.
Major economies across the Asia Pacific region – such as Japan, India and Australia – have witnessed negative GDP growth in Q2 of 2020. For example, Japan’s economy shrank an annualised real 28.1 percent from the previous quarter, according to a recently released government report. However, as lockdowns across the world begin to lift, businesses are looking towards the future and hoping for recovery.
“It’s hard to believe that it took just about six months for the COVID-19 pandemic to cause significant loss of life, devastating industries and cause the crash of a relatively stable and prosperous global economy. Critical vulnerabilities have been deeply exposed and, as the world starts to return to a level of normalcy, companies find themselves at an inflection point. How can they use the lessons learned from this to determine the path going forward?”
The question is posed by Tommy Leong, President of East Asia & Japan at Schneider Electric, a company that provides energy, automation and digital solutions to improve efficiency and sustainability. With 28 years of experience in ASEAN and Pacific business, Leong is perfectly placed to answer the question every business is currently asking: how can we adapt to the ‘new normal’?
“Companies must assess and address their gaps to protect themselves against future disruption,” he says. “This goes far beyond securing operations and protecting sites; it is about a substantial shift in strategy that anticipates vulnerability and unpredictability.
“Innovation, digitisation, and purpose have proven more essential than ever in uncertain times. Companies with a commitment to their employees, customers, and communities who have sought creative solutions amid crisis, and turned the challenge into an opportunity, are outperforming their peers.
“We believe that the future ‘business as unusual’ is powered by digitisation, and these unprecedented times have demonstrated the need for widespread adoption of digital tools.”
Futureproofing through digitisation
Schneider Electric is currently focused on supporting business continuity, helping companies improve their digital resiliency, cybersecurity tools and infrastructure, increase technical support for customers and work towards the remote management of facilities. All of these factors are fundamental to improving a business’s agility and resilience.
In particular, COVID-19 has exposed the challenges of managing sites remotely. During lockdowns, personnel had limited access to properties, and thanks to social distancing measures, reopened businesses may not be able to have the entire workforce reoccupying the space. These issues – and a potential loss of expertise due to redundancies – might make it more difficult to monitor and maintain infrastructure.
“Our advice would be to lean on digital tools during this period,” Leong says. “Digitisation of electrical networks provides facility teams with new IOT-based architectures that can address these challenges. Sensors automatically send ‘big data’ to the edge and the cloud where power analytics applications can deliver insights and recommendations directly to the team.
“Cloud-based analytics can also enable remote services. Remote service teams complement and enhance the knowledge of the local facility team, ensuring that no risk or opportunity is missed to improve safety and resilience.”
Schneider Electric offers organisations an IoT-enabled, futureproof EcoStruxure Power architecture, which supports digitised power distribution and therefore enables enhanced connectivity, real-time operations and smart analytics.
One strand of this architecture is EcoStruxure Power Advisor, a proactive, analytics-based service that enables power management systems to become more reliable and resilient. All ExoStruxure power solutions are also intended to improve a business’s energy efficiency.
Keeping solutions sustainable
While increasing digitisation is important, it is also necessary to be aware that during this economic downturn, many companies will be faced with increasing budget constraints, limited staffing and increased scrutiny among stakeholders.
“It is possible they may look for corners to cut,” Leong says. “Sustainability should not be in this corner. Action on sustainability by all companies is critical if we are to contribute to the achievement of global climate goals by 2030. At the same time, government action and stimulus packages across the globe support sustainability, to help businesses act in the best interest of the environment.”
The regional President believes in the importance of businesses making emphatic, long-term commitments to reduce their emissions. The most effective way to do so is through digitisation and data-driven management – not only will this cut emissions, it also improves business efficiency.
“In our experience, cutting energy consumption to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generates financial benefits and stronger business performance by encouraging operational efficiencies, reducing material usage and lowering energy consumption levels,” Leong adds.
“These benefits can help support companies through major business interruptions, as we have seen in the past few months. Companies with a strong energy plan and staunch commitments to reducing energy usage can also generate a commercial advantage, as customers, partners and financial institutions demand further visibility of a company’s emissions exposure.”
In short, improving energy consumption helps businesses become more resilient in the face of volatile energy markets and an uncertain future. It also provides a company with long-term financial gains. Furthermore, when a business reduces its emissions it is not just futureproofing itself – it is also safeguarding the future of the planet.