A global energy specialist, Schneider Electric both designs and manufactures products and solutions to increase energy efficiency rates for markets, which include both the residential and industrial sectors, as well as those of infrastructures, major buildings, and not least data processing centres, which may account for a combined total of some 70% of all energy consumed.
Schneider Electric provides solutions for a wide range of clients, such as facilities at the new terminal at Prat Airport, Barcelona, the Clínica Quiron or indeed the new desalination plant on the Llobregat delta.
The group runs operations and acts on decisions taken at its Barcelona office, the major hub of the company for the EMEASA region, where the executive management for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America is based.
The solid industrial base of Schneider Electric in Catalonia makes up 20% of its total volume in Spain and the firm has over 2,000 people involved in its operations, including those in its two production plants in the towns of Molins de Rei and Capellades, in addition to a newly extended logistics centre in Sant Boi de Llobregat, which now covers 46,000 m2 and employs 330 workers, making it a lynchpin of product distribution for Southern Europe and Africa. It can now handle up to 100,000 catalogued items of the company.
It comes as no surprise therefore that Julio Rodríguez, company Executive VP for the EMEASA area refers to Catalonia as a key location for Schneider:
“Spain is a major centre for the group and we’ve always been based in Barcelona. What’s more, Barcelona is a city with a great influence and international reputation, which helps when it comes down to doing business.”
Julio Rodríguez puts the draw of Catalonia’s capital down to a combination of several strategic factors: “Barcelona is ideally located and its communications have improvedwith the recently enlarged airport at El Prat, the high speed train (AVE) link and first class port facilities". Moreover, he adds, “the city houses some of the world’s top business schools, which produce a large available talent base.” Schneider’s Executive VP also goes on to comment; “Barcelona is known as a city with a high life quality – its climate, background and people make it a choice location drawing top professionals.”
Indeed, this assertion seems to be born out by the fact that there are more than seven nationalities represented within the sixty members of the staff in Schneider Electrics’ Barcelona head office for the EMEASA region.
In 2006, the company moved its Barcelona office from the centre to the new, high-tech district; the 22@ zone. According to Julio Rodríguez, “this move expressed a clear intention. We wanted to expand and evolve in the heart of the technological district of the city in line with the development of the firm’s activities.” The Barcelona head office, which was formerly the base of Schneider Electric for Spain and Portugal, over time, became our major base for trade with half the world, illustrating that, “our commitment to Catalonia is both sound and here to stay,” Rodríguez explains. The company Executive Vice-President also comments that, “our company now aspires to make Barcelona into an international benchmark in energy management. Indeed, this is one of the milestones we have laid down for the future.”
The value of specialised assistance
Julio Rodríguez considers that in order to meet the challenges the firm has set out, “all the support and guidance provided to overseas firms working in Catalonia is proving to be a very sound practice, which in turn will help Catalonia to become one of Europe’s leading poles of attraction for innovation and advancement.” Indeed, the Executive VP of Schneider emphasises that his company, “has witnessed the work of ACC1Ó first hand in the assistance it received in helping to raise productivity and furthermore acknowledges, its role as the agency driving Catalan enterprise towards that all important competitive edge as it encourages and backs activities of enterprise associations and similar groups.”
One of the services provided by ACC1Ó most highly valued by Schneider Electric in their growth in Catalonia has been that of the Management of Investment Projects and Investment Incentives run by Invest in Catalonia. Rodriguez explains that, “this service has allowed us to grow in confidence, while opening up new opportunities to help us settle down firmly in this location.”
Throughout the years Schneider Electric has been working from Catalonia, Julio Rodríguez points out that, “the Generalitat has always provided us with the necessary assistance and contacts to guarantee, more than anything else, that our company retained its competitive edge.” He goes on to recall, “such help was of fundamental use in making sure that the firm kept both its factories going in Catalonia, along with the major logistics centre from which Schneider distributes its products to over fifties countries spanning three continents.”
Julio Rodriguez believes that in order to increase Catalonia’s potential as a major receptor of overseas investment, it is essential to further the international credentials of Catalan managers, so that can aspire to directorships and executive positions of multinationals, adding, “if they are not there, present in the heart of the decision-making processes of a company, how will they be able to extol the virtues of Barcelona and its surrounding area?”