About 4,500 attendees greeted ABB Ltd. (www.abb.com) Chief Executive Officer Joe Hogan as the Zurich -based diversified power and automation systems and components supplier kicked off its annual user conference, Automation & Power World, May 18-20 in Houston. “There is hope at last (about the economy),” stated Hogan in his keynote address. “We are in a recovery, but it is still tenuous in the developing world.”
Hogan began with the state of the company in broad terms. He had reorganized the company about a year ago into five divisions. To get a sense of the size of the company just in the automation market, the “discrete automation” business is at about $5.4 billion in sales, while its process automation unit adds another $7.8 billion to the corporate top line.
Much of Hogan's talk, as well as many sessions and exhibits in the 100,000 square foot exhibition hall, focused on power and energy efficiency. The theme begun last year at the merged “Power World” and “Automation World” conferences continued this year—the confluence of power and process automation. This fact was backed up by Chief Technology Officer Peter Terwisch's presentation at the press briefing where he threw in one process automation comment at the end of an otherwise power-and-energy-focused talk.
There was some talk of the recent acquisition of Ventyx Inc. (www.ventyx.com), an Atlanta-based software supplier, which is said to give ABB the tools to help manage energy better. But the only news release at the event was the announcement that ABB will invest $90 million in the United States to build a factory that will produce high voltage AC and DC cables. Executives hastened to explain that these aren’t your father’s cables. They are specially designed for such applications as moving electricity from remote power generation sites—for example wind turbine farms far out at sea—to places in the electric grid robust enough to handle the load.
Terwisch's one comment about automation at the press briefing was to note the company’s virtualization technology for the 800xA distributed control system platform. Later, Automation World got an in-depth look into the new, but as yet not formally announced, cpmPlus History—a new historian that is not only capable of acquiring tremendous quantities of data, but also has built-in tools for analysis and scripting capability for developing custom analysis built on more complex math and algorithms if required by the customer application.