Mastering electrical energy and how curiosity sparked a legacy

Written By

Ivan Steyert
CEO

at

Socomec

One man’s curiosity about the behaviour of electrical currents sparked the creation of a family legacy that would position Socomec firmly at the heart of the energy industry for generations to come. As the company celebrates its centenary year fourth generation CEO Ivan Steyert shares his unique insight into its heritage and future direction.

Where does the Socomec story begin?

Our story begins in the Alsace countryside in the spring of 1922, where my great-grandfather – textile engineer, Joseph Siat – experimented endlessly with electrical accessories in his rural workshop in the Bas-Rhin village of Benfeld.  His curiosity was ignited by the unpredictability of electrical currents and his attention soon turned to switches, circuit breakers and other fuse-based solutions as he tried to reduce the variations in what was, at that time, still a poorly controlled current.

Socomec is now a young centenarian!  This is a source of great pride because few companies reach this age with such demonstrable stability and with continued family shareholding.  In the last 100 years, we have experienced war, with economic and political crises on a global scale, as well as facing new challenges in terms of the environment and our impact upon it, but we have been able to adapt and reinvent ourselves whilst retaining our values of independence, innovation, and responsibility.   

What drives the business today?

“Our customers are our greatest inspiration – across the entire business.  Our customers inform the way that we work across departments, and, in turn, our development work draws on that in the widest possible sense. Whether smart switches, modular measurement systems or UPS, the most sophisticated electrical and electronic equipment has been developed over the course of the last century to meet the security and continuity needs of critical installations such as data centres, airports, healthcare settings and industrial infrastructure. In more recent years, we have been developing progressive energy storage solutions to support the energy transition and the increasing use of renewable energies.  In every critical setting – whether providing power, light or guaranteeing continuity of activity – Socomec provides truly innovative solutions that are adapted specifically for these vital installations.

How do you maintain such a strong sense of tradition whilst constantly innovating in a shifting landscape?

The political and economic landscape has altered beyond measure over the last century – and continues to change rapidly today. Part of Socomec’s success lies in its combination of strong and stable foundations and its ability to be the master of its own destiny, whereby adaptability and innovation are part of the very fabric of the organisation.

What is the secret of such longevity?  Above all, how can we make it last so that we can continue this wonderful adventure?  There is no miracle or mystery ingredient. Our stable and solid foundations allow us to move forward, to renew ourselves, to adapt to the transformation of our environment, of our markets, to differentiate ourselves through our expertise and through innovation. This is even more the case in the period we are going through now. Innovation will be the key to continuing this great adventure, both in our products and in our ways of working.  Because energy matters and, together, we have plenty of it!”

How do you innovate in challenging times?

With a century of proven innovation to draw upon, and a culture of exploration and invention, it’s no surprise that Socomec continued to up the ante during what was a uniquely challenging year for every organisation around the world.

Driving innovation forward is one aspect of the process – but looking back is vital.  By running a retrospective of innovation launched during 2021, for example, and reflecting on our work in this way we can help teams learn and adapt.  It means that we can better understand what works well and what might need to change.  Reviewing how we have innovated in the past helps us to innovate better for tomorrow.

Our customers are truly embedded in our ideation and development processes.  It’s a collaborative approach that we find ensures that we are delivering exactly what the customer needs – whilst also de-risking the development and speeding up time to market. What’s more, we challenge everything to exceed expectations, whether that is process or strategy; by rigorously interrogating every aspect we are able to drive performance that much further.

Sometimes that means starting with a blank sheet of paper and sometimes it’s about taking a relatively simple and proven concept and introducing incremental changes that ultimately deliver something completely new.  When these are changes that resolve your customers’ greatest issues, it’s possible to deliver unprecedented value.”

How will you celebrate the centenary?

Socomec’s centenary will reflect what has made us successful so far – strong values that have been shared by successive generations and working in the spirit of conviviality and sharing.  We are driven by a common vision; one of mastering electrical energy by demonstrating responsibility, openness, and commitment. For a century, thanks to our employees, customers, and partners, we have been able to meet our most critical technological challenges, standing the test of time and becoming a major player in the world of energy, today and tomorrow.

How do you develop flagship products?

Research and development are in our DNA: we always learning, always discovering, and always innovating.  Our AC and DC equipment combine our expertise in energy switching, measurement, conversion, and storage, for energy that’s ever more available, secure, flexible and efficient – for example, our Diris Digiware DC range makes the metering, measurement and monitoring of DC electrical energy quality simpler than it’s ever been before.

Diris Digiware is a unique, fully digital, multi-circuit plug and play measurement concept that brings together ground-breaking digital electrical measuring technology – from sensors to software – to deliver an unrivalled degree of flexibility to installations.

In 1992, a young engineer tasked with launching electronic development within Socomec’s then switchgear division focused his research on electrical multi-measurement.  The vision of that young engineer – Michel Krumenacker , who is now Deputy CEO at Socomec – opened an entirely new market for Socomec, setting the industry benchmark.  Over twenty years after having revolutionised the electrical multi-measurement market with our Diris meter, Socomec once again set the precedent in leading-edge power monitoring systems with the launch of the new Diris Digiware.

We know, however, that one size does not fit all, which is why our standard offer can be adapted to create tailor-made solutions.  That’s also why we have created modular ranges of UPS equipment, for example.

With more than 20 years of experience in developing and supplying modular solutions, Socomec’s Modulys solutions provide the ultimate availability, scalability, and extended lifetime to critical applications in IT infrastructures.

Based on proven technology – with several thousand modular systems in the field – the range has been described as the gold standard in terms of power scalability and risk-free maintenance in a truly online modular format.

By removing most of the risk and uncertainty often associated with new developments, and starting with the intrinsic value of products within our current range – combined with insight and expertise from the market – it has been possible to deliver something exceptional. Because we include our customers in the development process – at every step along the way – we have been able to take all the knowledge of our big data centre technology and democratise that technology – making it accessible and relevant for every application.

What’s next for Socomec?

For 100 years, our family-owned, independent group has been dedicated to the development of innovative solutions – solutions that we then adapt to our partners’ specific and most critical needs.  We are resolute in that commitment – and we will be working side by side today and for the next 100 years.

Increasingly, we are deploying our resources to help our partners accelerate their energy transitions – to take advantage of all that renewable energy has to offer and to help find simple and pragmatic solutions to what can feel like complex challenges.  We do this by combining our know-how and technologies – along with the sustainability of our products – to contribute to a more responsible world.

Leveraging strong historical expertise in both AC and DC power monitoring, power switching and conversion, Socomec has invested in Energy Storage applications since the early 2010s and has participated in a number of progressive experiments with major utilities, battery manufacturers, energy management software editors and pioneering ESS system integrators.  The result is a range of innovative and proven solutions for commercial and industrial buildings, isolated and resilient microgrids, renewable energy integration, mobile energy storage and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

One such solution is Socomec’s SUNSYS – a native outdoor system that merges proven technologies to create an all-in-one solution that is greater than the sum of its parts. Safe and compliant, this system sets a new standard when it comes to safety.  Whether peak shaving or load shifting, SUNSYS will deliver optimised savings plus a rapid return on investment while maximising renewable energy production.

The fact that we are an independent group means that we guarantee the control of all our strategic and operational decisions – which are in keeping with the values forged by our family shareholding and members of staff.  Our assets and approach allow us to create lasting value and sustainable growth for our shareholders, employees, customers, and partners – as well as in relation to our wider society and the environment.  We firmly believe that by taking control of all aspects of design and operation – as well as energy usage – it is possible to create reliable, sustainable solutions and build a better future for us all, starting now.

A year of celebration for Socomec

The company will celebrate throughout this exceptional year, marking the anniversary by giving employees the opportunity to complete 100 challenges that will unlock donations to charity. Individual and team challenges will unite participants from across the business – and around the world – and will cover themes including ‘knowing the company’, ‘committing to more ecological and social practices’, ‘moving your body’, to sporting challenges, ‘meeting and sharing’ to encourage working beyond borders and ‘celebrate’ to highlight the business’ accomplishments.

In the UK one such event is a cycling challenge taking place over eight days between June 18th and 25th, with teams made up of both employees as well as partner organisations including Arup, Durata, Paktronic, Yuasa, Lloyd Morris and Waldeck Consulting.

Setting off from Socomec’s UK base in Cirencester, the team will arrive in Benfeld to coincide with a flagship event that will unite participants from across the business and around the world.

“We are thrilled to be able to celebrate our centenary by raising funds for such an important cause,” Colin Dean, Socomec UK Managing Director says. “There is no doubt that this is going to be a huge physical challenge for us all but by joining forces with our partners, we hope that we will be able to make a real contribution to the communities in northern Madagascar.  We must thank our sponsors, without whom this wouldn’t be possible – ARUP, Yuasa, Cema, Paktronic, Lloyd Morris, Crestchic, Durata, Specialist Power TSE and GK Switchgear – with special thanks to Durata for providing our all-important kit. You will be able to follow the adventure on our LinkedIn page Socomec Group’’

The celebrations will culminate in an event at the Group’s headquarters in Benfeld on Saturday June 25, 2022, with the arrival of the great yachtsman and navigator, Loïc Peyron. This event will illustrate the many points of convergence that exist between a long-distance sports race and the 100 years of industrial adventure that have led Socomec to become the recognised international player in energy that it is today.

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