By Gregory Hale
ABB stepped deeper into the digital world this week launching its ABB Ability program, while also showing the industry it has broken down its internal technology silos and created a cohesive, connectivity plan to help end users move forward.

What wasn’t said, and ABB rarely talks about it, was one of the underlying strengths of their connected digital movement was its adherence to strict internal cybersecurity rules to ensure software and applications remain as secure as possible.

What was said, however, was the industry giant has a handle on where it feels the industry is headed.

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“There is a lot going on in the world,” said Ulrich Spiesshofer, chief executive of ABB during his Tuesday keynote address at ABB Customer World 2017 in Houston, TX. “The energy revolution and the Fourth Industrial Revolution are going on at the same time.”

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In the energy revolution, he said there was “more pressure not only on the grid, but there is tremendous proliferation on the demand side. The management of bits and bytes of the grid is more complicated.”

“Electricity is flowing many different ways,” he said, “but we have to make sure you get the electricity like you always have in a reliable way.”

Spiesshofer mentioned one case where a ConEd substation in New York City decided to go digital and it created multiple benefits.

There was 30 percent less footprint, which means it saves on real estate. In addition, maintenance reduced and there was the ability to employ remote condition monitoring. “We made a difference with the people in New York City in the safety of energy,” he said.

When it comes to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Spiesshofer said this one is different from the previous versions.

“The first three industrial revolutions were about replacing people with machines. The fourth industrial revolution uses artificial intelligence. We are having an unprecedented speed of change.”

“Technology is the key enabler in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said. Part of that change in technology will improve engineering efficiency, operator performance and asset utilization.

That change also entails jobs potentially changing on the fly.

“We have to take the people with us. In other times, the father would have a job and the son or daughter would have a different job (over their careers). Today, the jobs change within the generations.”

In today’s manufacturing automation sector, jobs, roles, technology and cultures are changing and ABB is jumping on board and looking to the future.

Spiesshofer said there are significant digital opportunities ahead where there could be $1 trillion cost advantage for ABB’s users.

That is where he said ABB Ability comes into play with its:
• Open access, intelligent cloud
• New end-to-end digital solutions
• Systems to monitor process control
• Closing the loop with connected devices

“ABB Ability helps us to assess, to know more to know about what the situation is,” Spiesshofer said. “If you have a motor, you will know the likelihood of a chance for an incident. This can eliminate downtime, but also understand what is going on. Things work more in a collaborative way.”


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