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The very nature of energy is rapidly changing around the world. It therefore stands to reason that the companies in charge of managing it would want to shift gears as well.
Those in the business of energy management have made a concerted effort to adapt to the change, be it through marketing, product offerings or personnel. In the case of the multinational Schneider Electric, the latter proved to have the most appeal when assessing its Malaysian operations.
In mid-2022, the company placed eight-year company veteran Eugene Quah in the role of Country President for that region. And at the top of his to-do list was the simple matter of providing direction in terms of strategy and growth, as the country and company enter energy’s new phase.
“We always want to make more with less and improve productivity, and the opportunities to do so lie in greater collaboration.”
If Quah feels any pressure from what’s undoubtedly a high-stakes position, he doesn’t show it. In fact, he’s filled with a sense of opportunity.
“We at Schneider Electric are the digital partner for efficiency and sustainability,” he says. “If you look at the whole industry, we have a very big role to play because we’re in the business of energy management, which means we try to help our customers consume energy the most efficient way possible.”
Notable projects include the enhancement of energy efficiency and the improvement of overall asset performance for the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as a significant refurbishment of building automation services at the iconic Petronas Towers, recognized as the tallest twin towers in the world.
To find these avenues of efficiency takes industry-wide collaboration as well as in-house innovation. For a long time, Schneider Electric has focused on manufacturing and processing internally, often done in collaboration with local manufacturing partners, but Quah says that’s begun to broaden.
“We’ve started to collaborate more with business leaders on the energy management side of the industry,” he reveals. “We always want to make more with less and improve productivity, and the opportunities to do so lie in greater collaboration.”
Quah’s background in industrial automation was a key reason for him being chosen for the role.
“It meant I could bridge the gap between automation and energy management so that we could build the business as one,” he says, adding that as a result of this blend of practices, orders grew by more than 40 percent. “That’s simply down to collaboration.”
“If we’re going to be diverse and thrive in this sector, we have to remain very agile.”
In a market as fast-paced as energy, Quah says he’s focused on making Schneider Electric as agile as possible.
“If we’re going to be diverse and thrive in this sector, we have to remain very agile,” he reflects. “For example, we’ve traditionally been very strong in oil and gas, but when oil prices dropped, we diversified into other end segments and it succeeded because we had the agility.
“We’re probably seeing similar trends on the horizon, especially in Malaysia, so remaining agile is key.”
At the same time, Quah reveals he does much to reassure his team that they won’t lose track of the basics that built Schneider Electric into the business it is today.
“We won’t let go of oil and gas or building management, which is actually one of our strongest segments. We can do a lot more there,” he explains.
“However, we have a big role to play in the national energy transition road map that the government has introduced, so my leadership team and I will be looking into further collaborative partnerships to reach those goals.”
The elephant in the room in any conversation about energy is, of course, sustainability. Quah admits Malaysia has a long way to go in that regard, but believes that Schneider Electric can add a lot of value.
“The greatest challenges of sustainability come during the implementation stage. People often ask if it’s worth investing in, whether they need to spend the money. My message is yes, it’s the right thing to do, and it doesn’t have to be difficult.”
“Implementing digitalization and meeting sustainability goals actually makes operations and processes more efficient.”
Schneider Electric helps its partners realize that embracing sustainability doesn’t equal a burden on the business, according to Quah.
“Implementing digitalization and meeting sustainability goals actually makes operations and processes more efficient, thereby saving you money on energy consumption in the long run,” he points out.
Digitalization in particular has unexpected bonuses for businesses, he adds, which is just as well given global trends in that direction.
“Take a restaurant, for instance. When you order food with a digital QR code, the restaurant is able to use that data to plan its purchases of ingredients, it can serve customers faster, thereby increasing turnover, and it no longer needs to produce physical menus,” he says.
“It all adds up, but there’s so much more awareness that can be raised in Malaysia.”
Being ahead of the curve in such areas has made Schneider Electric a popular employer among the younger generation, something Quah believes is a key driver of growth.
“When we talk about people – and for me, people are the most important part of the business – what sets Schneider Electric Malaysia apart is the way we drive and build local competency and young talent,” he says.
“Almost all of our workforce, 97 percent, is local. Almost half, 48 percent, is female. People from different areas and different backgrounds bring different ideas.
“If we want to serve a spectrum of customers from all sorts of backgrounds and industry, we should also listen to ideas from the different spectrum of expertise.”
“What sets Schneider Electric apart is the way we drive and build local competency and young talent.”
Quah is quick to highlight that the company’s strong partner network is another point of difference.
“We upskill them, we train, we recertify based on specialized functions. It’s an area where we can add value to the entire chain,” he enthuses.
“We make sure we’re all committed to the big picture we want to achieve. A lot of that is based on trust: we trust that they’re conducting business in the right manner, and they trust that we’re providing the best services, quality and business practices.
“That’s how we work with partners and it brings about very sustainable, long-term partnerships. We’ll be here for many years to come, probably forever, and our partners know that.”
“We make sure we’re all committed to the big picture we want to achieve.”
The energy revolution will change many aspects of daily life, some of which won’t become apparent for some time. Quah says greater awareness of these unexpected benefits can pay off for companies much sooner.
“Digitalization and sustainability come hand in hand,” he insists. “The effect this can have on organizations can be huge, but only if you put in the effort, attitude and determination.
“I’m not saying there’s quick success, but success will come. We just have to remain focused.”