The theme was collaboration for the fifth annual ABB Group’s 2008 Automation World Conference & Exhibition for ABB users April 28-May 2 in Houston. Despite the Automation World conference name, the event has no affiliation with Automation World magazine or automationworld.com, though Automation World Editor In Chief Gary Mintchell was among about 3,200 in attendance, including about 2,200 ABB users. Attendance was up by 30 percent over last year’s conference, the company said.
Michel Demere, chief executive officer and chief financial officer for the Zurich-based ABB Group (www.abb.com), used his opening keynote in part to review the strong performance of the group in 2007. “We just concluded a strategy review and concluded that we are in the right businesses at this time,” he said. Orders in 2007 were up 19 percent over 2006 to $34 billion. “We are committed to our core businesses,” he continued, noting that the company plans organic growth plus acquisitions that would close technology or geographical gaps. Growth in the United States was also good for all sectors, according to comments other executives made during the conference sessions.
The second keynote address was given by John Brantley, general manager, global chemical and petroleum/Industrial products industries at IBM, which has long been a strong partner of ABB. Brantley talked of collaboration and openness, citing the importance of open systems technology for companies as they consolidate or acquire new companies and need to integrate systems.
Six growth keys
Neil Duffin, president of ExxonMobil Development Co., gave the final keynote. He cited six key areas of growth. First is safety leadership. Companies with good safety performance are also best business performers, he said. Duffin attributes this to both leadership and attention to detail.
The second key is execution excellence, followed by technology, then local investment. Duffin explained the value of companies investing in training, health and community building in the areas where they do business.
Duffin’s fifth key is education and training in general, given that most of ExxonMobil Development’s workforce could retire within 15 years. Attracting a diverse workforce—in terms of both ethnicity and gender—is a priority because a diverse workforce adds strength to a company, Duffin told the audience. The final key is the environment—from pursuing global standards to respect for sensitive areas to applying technology to solving environmental problems.
The convergence of power and control was cited as a key technology and business trend for ABB, not surprising because the company is strong in both. Company executives believe this could be a key area of differentiation and customer value for ABB.
Noting ABB's strengths in energy—both in oil and gas, and in power generation and use--Enrique Santacana, president and chief executive officer of ABB Inc., the company’s North America operating arm, said, “We are in the sweet spot of the market for the first part of the 21st Century.”