Citect/Schneider in UK “headcount reduction”

Last October’s announcement from Schneider SCADA and MES software subsidiary Citect that it is merging its field operations teams, including sales, professional services and training, with those of the parent company from January 1 seems to have created as much confusion as clarification, at least as far as the UK operation is concerned. As we commented at the time, the original press release issued from Citect’s Australian HQ was far from clear about how the change would affect Citect’s wholly owned subsidiaries, although a report in Australian process and automation magazine PACE had indicated that the teams in all of Citect’s 20 offices worldwide would be merged with their respective Schneider equivalents.

Second release

Shortly after publication of the November 2008 INSIDER, a somewhat different version of the original release was issued by Citect’s UK PR consultants, DMA Europa, although, unusually for releases from that source, the usual local contact details were omitted, and the only contacts provided were global marketing manager Majella Nolan in Australia, field marketing specialist for Europe Vera Baumann and Citect’s Australian PR consultants, Watterson Marketing Communications.

The major difference between this new version and the original release was the inclusion of an extended quote from Paul Hurst, whom INSIDER had attempted unsuccessfully to contact before publishing the original release. He had previously usually been described as managing director of Citect UK, but in this context was given the title “Country Manager Citect UK”.

“In the UK, the integration process has commenced and is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year,” Hurst was quoted as saying. “Our objective is to be able to more expertly address customers’ needs for a hardware and software solution, with customers benefiting from our combined automation expertise. Further details about the integration process within the U.K. will become available soon. In the meantime, please rest assured: you as our customers will continue to be supported by the contact person you know and have an established relationship with.”

Nothing peculiar about that, you might think, were it not for the fact that in the last few days prior to publication of this issue of INSIDER, the word on the Coleshill street has been that, rather than being merged with its equivalent at Schneider UK, the Citect UK team, with only a couple of exceptions, had been made redundant and their responsibilities transferred to their Schneider colleagues. We contacted both Majella Nolan at Citect in Australia and Roland Renshaw, marketing director at DMA Europa, for further clarification.

CEO’s visit

Renshaw denied any knowledge of any redundancies and gave an assurance that Citect UK was still operating normally and that he was unaware of any imminent change. He also said that Citect CEO Christopher Crowe had been in the UK within the past month and had publicly assured both Citect staff and customers of their continued support by Citect corporate. He subsequently forwarded a statement from the Citect Europe Marketing Department which reads as follows: “The current status of Citect in the U.K. is ‘business as usual’, at the present time the team is still working out of the Birmingham office. Since its acquisition by Schneider Electric nearly three years ago, Citect in the UK has operated largely independently, based out of its Coleshill office in the West Midlands. In order to take full advantage of the significant operational efficiencies and synergies that exist between the two businesses, plans have commenced to move Citect’s operations to Schneider Electric’s premises in Coventry. Citect UK will continue to provide both direct customers and Citect Integration Partners in the UK with the same excellent levels of service that they are used to.”

This was followed a couple of days later by a further statement from Majella Nolan: “As was reported in the press globally in October, Schneider Electric and Citect announced plans to integrate the field operations of Citect’s direct offices into the respective country organizations of Schneider. The Development, Support, Marketing and Global Business Development teams would remain and become the Global SCADA Activity for Schneider responsible for all SCADA products, including Citect SCADA and Vijeo Citect. Locally in Europe this meant that the central team headquartered in Leiden, Netherlands, would be the hub for the ongoing support and business development for Citect SCADA. . . . In a separate move announced last week, due to the challenging economic climate in the U.K., it has been necessary to review the organization’s structure to ensure it is in line with current business opportunities. The review has resulted in a headcount reduction of a small number of people at Citect U.K. The remaining Citect employees will continue to work to promote, sell and support the SCADA products as part of Schneider Electric UK. In parallel our Business and Support team headquartered in Leiden will continue to support the European region including the U.K. to ensure we maintain our service levels in the business. We remain committed to expanding our market share in the UK and to the on-going service of our existing customers.”

How small, how high?

Quite how small a “small number of people” turns out to be and how high up the organization the “headcount reduction” goes will probably only become apparent when the individuals concerned establish whether and when their contractual obligations allow them to speak freely. In the meantime some integrators, OEMs and users may experience a distinct feeling of déjà vu. Citect U.K. came into existence when, in 2003, Citect acquired Paul Hurst’s own company, Automation Products, which had been its U.K. distributor since 2000. Prior to that, the company had been one of Intellution’s two distributors in the U.K., until Intellution effectively brought U.K. distribution back in- house through the creation of Fortétion.

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