ABB Trends in Discrete Automation

May 5, 2011
At the ABB Automation & Power World 2011 conference, Automation World Editor in Chief Gary Mintchell received an update on the company’s Discrete Automation and Motion division from Ulrich Spiesshofer, global business unit manager, and Greg Scheu, business unit manager for North America.

They said there are five strategic areas within the division, with two key enablers.

1. Robotics. This product area has rebounded from a loss in 2009 to profitability in 2010. ABB is “strongly, cautiously optimistic” about the robot business in the near future, they said.

2. Industrial motion. This includes drives and motors. ABB had a very strong base in standard IEC motors. With the Baldor acquisition, ABB feels it is now in a strong global leadership position. The strategic plan for integrating Baldor’s organization into ABB is to assure “you keep the soul of the company while leveraging what ABB can do for Baldor,” they said.

3. Power quality and control. ABB had won a big contract with Deutsche Bahn, the German train system, to retrofit the electrical power system on a train. It is now running at 15 points higher efficiency than before. Other technologies include stabilizing power supply into automation, high end uninterruptible power systems (UPSs), and a new battery storage solution.

4. Renewable energy markets. ABB has decided to focus on wind and solar. The company has had a strong base in wind, but it has come late to the solar party. It is developing its technology for both grid and consumer markets.

5. Emobility. ABB entered this market on the charging side, tied to its power electronics capability. It is now working with battery and car manufacturers.

As for enablers, the first is packaging of applications, meaning, don’t think about selling individual components, but rather combine them into solution packs. The second enabler is service. Not just spare parts, but using technologies such as remote condition monitoring and predictive maintenance information for customers.

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