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Channel outlook for 2023 and beyond

Home Infrastructure Energy – Power Generation Channel outlook for 2023 and beyond

OPINION | It’s fair to say that the last couple of years have been hugely disruptive for businesses everywhere,  says Jaco du Plooy,  product manager at intelligent power management company, Eaton Africa. From Covid-19 to geopolitical unrest, price increases and energy shortages, to name a few, we constantly face a series of unprecedented challenges. This begs the question: what impact does this have for channel partners and their customers over the coming 12 months and beyond?

Support in uncertain times

The channel has been experiencing supply chain issues since the global health crisis began in 2020, the impact of which is still being felt today. These range from supply delays or cancellations, pricing movements on goods and services, and limited workforce availability. In China, for instance, whenever there’s an outbreak of Covid-19, everything in the area shuts down, leading to delays for some component manufacturers, particularly the semiconductors and base metals vital to the production of chips.

And this has a knock-on effect. The big players are seeing eight-to-10-month delays in delivering products, which can be challenging for channel partners whose customers are expecting these goods. It means they’re unable to install products and provide the services their customers expect.

These supply chain issues are a significant challenge for everyone, including South African businesses that have built markets on the back of an integrated global trade network. One of the effects of these supply chain issues is that it’s becoming harder for channel partners to forecast with any accuracy, to the detriment of their clients. Customer projects typically require multiple components. But if one of those components is missing, the whole project must be put on hold. Supply chain uncertainty makes it difficult to advise the customer on how long it will be before they can expect their project to be completed.

On top of this, increasing energy prices have added yet another cost to businesses with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) authorizing national power utility Eskom to increase its tariff by an average of 18.65% starting on April 1, 2023. Persistent loadshedding has also meant an increased burden for manufacturers. From time wasted when production is stalled, uncertainty on production capabilities given fluctuating loadshedding schedules, and the budget-crippling cost of diesel to power generators during unplanned outages – the impact of South Africa’s power challenges is acute.

Thus, channel partners should look to their vendors for support in times like this. Eaton’s simple, easy to manage partner program provides that support, giving partners access to the company’s solutions, configurators, and training, as well as lead and demand generation activities while allowing them to focus more of their time on supporting the needs of their own customers. Eaton has an extensive product portfolio.

Digital transformation through remote monitoring

Digital transformation is vital to all aspects of business today. Take sustainability, for example. As environmental concerns continue to grow, most organisations want to cut down on travel to reduce their carbon footprint. Indeed, Eaton has already taken steps in this direction with regard to the provision of backup power, aiming to manage devices from service centres rather than travelling to sites.

To this end, the company provides software solutions that enable customers to remotely manage and monitor their assets – how many UPSs they have, how old they are, and the quality of their batteries. Using predictive maintenance, we can understand when a UPS will reach the end of its lifetime.

Our remote monitoring solution will also help customers cope with the growing risk of power outages caused by the energy crisis. Effectively, it’s a simple way of alerting an organisation when an issue is about to occur, enabling them to manage its power generation and storage systems to avoid any potential downtime.

Despite its benefits, however, remote monitoring also represents a new cybersecurity threat. The more connected an organisation is, the greater the opportunity for hackers to access its network. That’s why we invest heavily in cybersecurity services, to support our partners and their customers.

Opportunities in sustainability

Sustainability will be an increasingly important focus in the years ahead. To meet their ESG goals, many companies, including Eaton, will have targets in place to reduce their carbon footprint. There’s growing investment in renewable energy sources, too, for more sustainable, accessible, and cost-effective power – especially considering rising energy prices. Fortunately, there is already a wealth of government support and funds available to encourage sustainability initiatives, and we can expect to see a growing number of regulations being introduced to further help companies with these.

All of this represents significant opportunities for channel partners. UPS, energy storage, and assets such as solar panels and EV chargers will have to be managed by IT. By understanding this area of the business, partners can play an important role in supporting their customers’ sustainability efforts, providing them with expert guidance and products such as long-life lithium-ion UPS, storage systems, and remote management services needed to better enable this.

We live in challenging times. While some issues look as though they’re likely to remain for some time, it’s possible that by working together vendors like Eaton, their channel partners, and their customers can ride the storm and make the most of whatever uncertainty the future holds.

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