Fully integrated into Eurotherm by Schneider Electric, the French operation of the process automation and power control solutions specialist has been active in France’s glass industry for decades, and the Lyon base is the centre of excellence and R&D for the power group. In his role as Eurotherm’s Glass Business Development Manager and Key Account Manager for glass customers in France, Christian Megret primarily looks after the company’s interests in France and Belgium, also working closely with a global team on cross-border projects, for example in Italy, Germany and the UK.
“It’s an international effort with the global team working in countries with business managers like myself,” explains Mr Megret. “In France I then co-ordinate our effort with our local territory sale representatives. In all, many people are involved to support our clients and opportunities.”
Communication is key, he stresses. “Our glass market vertical is driven by my colleagues Mikael Le Guern, Global Business Development Manager and Torsten Hannappel, Global Key Account Manager. Together we have regular check-ins with the other Eurotherm offices to discuss projects and share information about the market and solutions. Often, when French glass companies have projects in other countries in Europe or overseas, we collaborate with the local Eurotherm office to better serve the customer.”
Trust is the key to a good customer relationship, underlines Mr Megret. “As a team, our mindset is dedicated towards maintaining the trusted advisor status that our customers depend on. It takes time and effort, but we are strongly committed to our customers."
“I have had multiple hats throughout my career at Eurotherm and I have always been involved with glass customers in one way or another,” he reflects. “My involvement has grown over the years with our particular focus on glass as a key market for us; it is a particularly interesting industry and one with new excitement as it goes through this transformation to electrification.”
Eurotherm France has over 40 years of experience delivering DCS [distributed control system – in which autonomous controllers are distributed throughout the system] process control systems. Expertise accrued by Mr Megret’s team in Lyon covers myriad aspects of the glass making and forming processes, from complete hot end process control systems to increasingly larger electrical boosting and melting systems for electric and hybrid furnaces, and extends across multiple industry sectors: float, fibre, container, pharma and other speciality glass.
Being part of a large organisation enables the French operation to provide glass customers with end-to-end one-stop-shop solutions combining power and control in a complete package, including model predictive control (MPC) for best results, in accordance with Eurotherm’s ‘from grid to glass’ strategy.
“Essentially, we can offer a comprehensive integrated solution for a glass plant, from substations, MV [medium voltage] transformers, switchgears and UPS [uninterruptible power supply], to the Eurotherm electric boost systems, including if needed: cables, cable tray installation and commissioning; as well as the furnace DCS control system and cloud based platforms and tools,” says Mr Megret.
Solutions and services
The business’ portfolio centres around two classes of products: the Eurotherm T2750 PAC controllers for furnace process control coupled with an AVEVA system platform-based SCADA [supervisory control and data acquisition] system, and – from the thyristor controller range designed and developed at Lyon – its EPower SCR power controller for heating and boosting applications.
“We usually package those products into turnkey systems that we engineer, manufacture, deliver and commission,” explains Mr Megret. “We also offer services as part of a sales level agreement to support the full life cycle of the system."
“Today, full process and power control system solutions represent most of our business,” he continues. “From hot end process control systems, roof and lehr heating systems to large electric boost systems for container glass furnaces, the range of system solutions is expanding. The market trend is particularly toward larger electrical heating or boosting systems on glass furnaces.”
While the bulk of the company’s business comes from supporting container and flat glass companies, Eurotherm has also had success combining its DCS process control and thyristor-based electrical power control solution for France’s pharmaceutical glass manufacturers. “It is a very interesting sector and we have been proud to help this industry to meet its vaccine packaging demands in these unusual times,” comments Mr Megret.
Another speciality glass sector now benefitting from Eurotherm’s expertise is crystal glass, which has “a long tradition of excellence in France and is part of the French heritage,” he notes – undaunted. “It is a different type of glass with smaller furnaces that require precise control. As this sector is also working towards electrification we are happy to support them in this journey.”
Europe is leading the world in the electrification of the glass industry, believes Mr Megret, while France, with its “relatively favourable electricity availability situation compared to other countries,” is well positioned to adapt to market changes arising from a significant increase in electrification.
“A lot of activities regarding decarbonisation and electrification are happening in Europe to implement the Paris Accord and various commitments that companies have made to reduce CO2 emissions,” he comments. “France is again at the forefront of this transition with some high-profile customers, and projects are in progress.”
The current market trend is toward larger electrical boosting and melting systems on glass furnaces to meet decarbonisation objectives, he observes, and Eurotherm is responding accordingly with innovative solutions to help its customers. “These efforts are particularly visible with the power box solution that we first developed for container glass furnaces but which we are now expanding and installing on fibre and float glass furnaces. These power supply boxes can be installed in a network topology, offering flexibility for power redundancy and up-sizing of power systems.”
The company collaborates closely with furnace OEMs to optimise the design of its solutions, particularly in the field of large electrical boosting. “Our experience and expertise in our field combined with know-how from OEMs is essential to provide the right solutions in this fast paced electrification transition,” confirms Mr Megret.
Conscious that the hollow glass sector was the first to adopt electrification “because the size of the furnaces made it easier to transition to electrical energy,” Mr Megret has noticed “a push from actors in the flat glass sector to catch up and get serious about reducing emissions. We expect our activities will continue to grow and we have plans in place to invest accordingly to support the market,” he explains.
Interestingly, Eurotherm does not divide its priorities between the French flat and hollow glass sectors: “We consider both those sectors of key importance,” he states.
Accelerating pressure to reduce CO2 emissions and meet environmental targets has spurred the glass industry in France and the rest of Europe to adapt and survive. “This industry used to be conservative but now to meet sustainability goals the speed of innovation has picked up dramatically,” reports Mr Megret.
Decarbonisation is now the main issue that Eurotherm – and the glass industry – needs to address. “We believe this is also a great opportunity for us as we believe we can address the challenge through electrification and also digitalisation with both our power control and DCS control solutions,” he asserts.
Traditionally, Eurotherm’s business in France was mainly products: temperature controllers, data recorders and power controllers. “This of course remains a significant part of our business but the main change in our glass industry offerings has been to drive the business through selling complete systems. Decarbonisation through electrification and digitalisation, including cloud-based solutions for data management and analytics, is increasing this trend and represents significant opportunities for us to help our customers,” explains Mr Megret. “I think we can say the future of glass is exciting and we are well positioned to serve this market and our customers for many years to come,” he concludes.