A veteran of Eurotherm by Schneider Electric for 20 years, former Global Glass Key Account Manager Mikael Le Guern recently took over the role of Global Glass Business Development Manager from René Meuleman, who left the company to join its ecosystem partner CelSian, as announced in the January/February edition of Glass Worldwide.
“My background is in electrical engineering” Mr Le Guern explains, “which has been instrumental in the development of our core activity in the glass industry: Electrical power control systems. I started as an application engineer many years ago and then moved into product management where I wrote the specifications for our market-leading EPower SCR (Silicon Controlled Rectifier) power controller range, which is the foundation of the power control heating systems we supply to glass customers today. Eventually, I moved to the USA to take on a business development sales management role for our North American division. For the last six years I have been deeply involved in our glass market initiatives, acting as a global account manager for nine of the largest glassmaking companies.”
In his new role, Mr Le Guern will continue to help bring Eurotherm’s power solutions to the market. “My role is to lead our global effort to develop and maximise our business in the glass industry and to co-ordinate our efforts internally with our team and externally with our customers” he explains. “I will work in close collaboration with Torsten Hannappel who is joining our team to take over my former responsibilities as Global Glass Key Account Manager (effective 1 March).”
Previously Eurotherm’s Sales Director for central and eastern Europe, Mr Hannappel built up a glass team for the region, providing direct customers, partners and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) with power and process control solutions including HV/MV/LV power distribution systems and transformers. “Within my new role, I will continue to implement the Eurotherm glass business strategy to specific key account customers around the world” he confirms.
“We are thrilled to announce the promotion of Mikael Le Guern and Torsten Hannappel to the role of Global Glass Business Development Manager and Global Glass Key Account Manager respectively” underlines Sebastien Girard, Eurotherm’s Global Business Development Director. “Mikael and Torsten have accumulated years of experience in the glass market and are recognised as experts in their domain.”
Grid to glass
In 2014, Eurotherm became part of Schneider Electric, an organisation with over 135,000 employees, the acquisition creating ‘a unique player in industrial automation’ and vastly increasing the scope of Eurotherm’s product and service portfolio.
“It’s huge” states Mr Le Guern, of the influence that the alliance has on Eurotherm’s activities in the glass sector. “With Schneider Electric’s global reach and broad portfolio plus Eurotherm’s experience and solutions in the glass industry, we now offer everything from medium and low voltage distribution equipment, to process automation and electrical power control systems.”
“We came up with the slogan ‘From Grid to Glass’ at the time we became part of Schneider Electric” Mr Hannappel recalls. The term aptly describes the company’s ability to deliver complete electrical and automation solutions for its customers, including from their own region. Encompassing everything from the utility connection to the plant to the very end of the control processes, “our automation software and hardware can cover all distribution equipment down to the boosting and power controller heating systems” Mr Le Guern explains. “This provides us the scale and leverage necessary to pursue any size of project from small to the largest, while providing the necessary confidence to our partners and customers.”
“We are truly global” states Mr Le Guern, citing Schneider Electric’s operations in over 100 countries. “That’s our reach. We have created a global team to support our regional key account managers and local country sales teams. From there, we use one of our 11 delivery teams around the world to design, build and deliver our systems and solutions anywhere in the world. Support and commissioning are also a big part of the services we provide. Especially in these times when travel is limited or not possible, we always have someone local who can support customers.”
Mr Hannappel elaborates on this tailored approach to Eurotherm’s global product line: “We have had successes in every major glass manufacturing process and respect all sizes of customers, as well as OEMs and system integrators. However, we understand that regions, perhaps even continents differ from each other and therefore, we take a regional approach."
“There is no single, ideal solution that fits all. The Eurotherm glass team, having representatives in all major regions clearly understands that and each region has the freedom to act accordingly. Still, it keeps on amazing us how local smart ideas developed through internal cross-fertilisation can be used globally. No member of our global team has the truth monopoly. All contribute equally.”
Seeking continuous improvement in the best way to execute and deliver its products, Eurotherm has established multiple collaboration opportunities with various players in the glass business, from OEMs to consortiums and trusted partners.
A particularly valued collaboration is with CelSian (new office of Eurotherm alumnus René Meuleman), working with the glass melting software specialist “to combine their process modelling competency with our DCS process control systems, in order to integrate model predictive control functionality into our DCS system” explains Mr Le Guern. Currently the project is showing “good results” Mr Hannappel notes.
“We have a very well-established ecosystem approach working together with a network of OEMs, technology partners and institutes in different consortia, co-operating to develop possible solutions for the end user” he adds.
Internally, Eurotherm is also working with colleagues from the Energy and Sustainability side of the business on opportunities including micro- and smart-grid compatibility, reports Mr Le Guern.
Product lines and systems solutions
Being a systems supplier with the ability to develop and manufacture its own core products affords Eurotherm an enviable position in the industrial glass market. The company’s product lines currently include discrete and multi-loop PID (proportional integral derivative) controllers, signal conditioners, high temperature thermocouples and SCR power controllers for all types of glass applications and processes.
“What we are also heavily focusing on is our glass process solution business, such as large turnkey hot end DCS control systems and large power control heating systems for electrical glass melting, heating and forming applications” says
Mr Le Guern.
“Our global team and I will be primarily focusing on full system solutions for OEM furnace builders and end customers worldwide, with offerings based on our electrical power and DCS control system solutions, as well as the complete electrical distribution package from Schneider Electric” he adds.
“Until now, we have mainly delivered full solutions to our end user customers” says Mr Hannappel. “With our OEMs being mainly furnace builders, the split is 50/50 in terms of delivering products or systems. However, now that power systems have become more demanding and complex, we believe that Eurotherm by Schneider Electric is the ideal power and process control partner. We have the capabilities to understand OEMs’ demands and to help them to solve the complex questions around multiple megawatt power supply systems, as well as provide them with standardised, user-friendly and reduced maintenance solutions.”
Electric power is the future
A product that is proving particularly successful in the glass industry is Eurotherm’s EPower SCR power controller range, including boosting systems and large industrial SCR-based heating control panels with load transformers – valued by users for improving process performance and reducing energy costs.
“It represents the heart and brains of our solution” explains Mr Hannappel. “Its advanced capability to smoothly control huge amounts of power at high levels of efficiency and low levels of distortion, with lower maintenance than traditional legacy systems, makes it a very important component in our power supply offerings.”
“In 2015, we started to investigate how the energy transition will affect the glass industry” he relates. “It was obvious that electrical energy would play a major role and that the level of installed electrical power would therefore need to increase, either through the implementation of all-electric furnaces or hybrid designs. Having both the expertise to design, build and install huge electrical power control systems, as well as the competence to help our customers to keep their OpEx low with the help of our energy and sustainability team, we are in the position to really make a difference.”
“Electrical power is the future in the glass industry” Mr Le Guern confirms. “Its share will certainly significantly increase within the energy mix used for glass melting and forming processes.”
Having demonstrated the ability to produce “boosting power solutions and boosting power supplies that have been very successful with OEM furnace builders and end users for use in fibre, container and float glass furnaces” he believes Eurotherm is well-placed to take its next steps. “The background knowledge and experience we have accumulated in electrical boosting and melting solutions is enabling us to help lead the transition toward larger hybrid and full electric furnaces” he maintains.
As part of this shift, Eurotherm’s ‘Customer First’ policy is committed to helping clients adapt to the decarbonisation and electrification of the glass industry in line with objectives set by the Paris accords.
“Our experience allows us to understand their furnace designs, more specifically, their electrical power demands and setups” says Mr Hannappel. “We consider ourselves power experts and we strongly believe that by working together, respecting and using each other’s competencies, the end user will benefit from the best possible low CO2 solution."
“We strive to be part of the solution that leads to a carbon-free future” he vows. “We will help our customers to reach their 2030 and 2050 Paris Agreement CO2 emission targets by supporting a smooth switch from fossil fuel firing towards hybrid or all-electric glass melting furnaces.”
“We are ready!” Mr Le Guern confirms. “And eager to support our customers through this transition by supplying suitable high efficiency solutions and systems.”
Although the core of Eurotherm’s business remains float and container glass, the company will continue to build on its success in providing power control turnkey solutions for glass fibre and display glass manufacturing. “In today’s environment, we are also particularly proud to be involved with pharmaceutical glass customers through both our DCS control and power control solutions” notes Mr Le Guern.
“The next few years will bring more advanced functions and products” he predicts. “We are committed to this market and the decarbonisation and electrification of glass processes are creating opportunities to offer larger power control solutions. With potential 80% electric hybrid furnaces coming in the near future, the size of the electrical boosting/melting systems will indeed need to be significantly bigger. We are ready for that transition and we will keep bringing innovative solutions to the market. With larger electrical power control systems, it seems natural to merge our power control and system DCS solutions even closer into a comprehensive package. Our collaboration with CelSian also allows us to bring more advanced control features such as model predictive control to our DCS and SCADA package.”
“Right now, the industry is trying to figure out which routes lead to carbon-neutral glass manufacturing” Mr Hannappel adds. “A major role will be played by sustainable electrical energy, simply because it has the highest energy efficiency level of all energy sources. We know that some processes will still need some firing to keep the glass melting system flexible. Today, it seems that the use of 80% electrical energy and 20% fossil fuel (later hydrogen) firing, is a feasible solution for commodity glass melting. We also understand that in special glass manufacturing, all-electric melting and electrically boosted furnaces are already proven technologies. Overall, the power rating of systems used in the glass industry will need to increase, while control strategies will become more complex with all-electric or hybrid furnaces. Our experienced teams put us in a great position to help guide our offer development to address both the electrification and digitisation requirements for the future. We put a strong emphasis on working internally with our analytics and advanced control departments, as well as externally with key partners like CelSian, to enable us to provide best-in-class power and process control."
“The transformation of glass manufacturing to a sustainable industry is in front of us” Mr Girard concludes. “Eurotherm by Schneider Electric advanced process control and electrical heating system solutions are designed to support glass manufacturers’ needs and help meet the demands of this new era.”
“Mikael Le Guern and Torsten Hannappel, together with our global glass team are fully dedicated and ready to demonstrate our capabilities” Sebastien Girard confirms. “Don’t hesitate to contact them. They will do their best to fulfil your expectations, through optimising the efficiency and sustainability of your processes, helping your business to maintain its social licence to operate.”