I was not able to attend ABB’s Automation and Power World this year. Too many places to go at the same time.
However, someone I trust, Mehul Shah of LNS Research, was there and wrote his observations on the LNS blog.
Mehul focuses on software and linked it to the Internet of Things. “The conference also featured a prime focus on the Internet of Things (IoT), as a panel was presented on stage, containing key event sponsor Microsoft, ABB, and an ABB customer. The trio provided insight and examples into how the IoT trend is impacting the industry.”
Highlighting ABB’s solution in the IoT space, Spiesshofer discussed the following key areas of focus
• Intelligent devices
• Control systems
• Advanced communication infrastructure
• Enterprise software
• Analytics solutions
“A notable fact that was highlighted at conference was that—to my surprise—more than 50% of what ABB’s currently offers is software related. ABB had made a few major acquisition over the last decade to build its software offering. The most impactful was the acquisition of Ventyx for $1 billion in 2010. This gave ABB a major boost in asset, operations, energy, and workforce management solutions in some of the asset intensive industries. ABB has also made some other acquisitions such as Insert Key Solutions and Mincom to build its Enterprise Asset Management software offerings. It seems clear the company understands the importance of its software business to remain competitive, and has also developed a separate Enterprise Software group that houses some of these acquisitions.”
Interesting that the investments were in software applications. Several years ago a CEO told me that software was important to his company—and that there was software in most of the company’s hardware products. That was correct—but my point was software business, not technology. ABB seems to have kept emphasis on software business even while Spiesshofer has been divesting some of the acquisitions made under previous CEO Joe Hogan.
• It was impressive to see the effort that ABB has invested to bring its acquisitions under one brand.
• ABB has taken a first step in building a technology roadmap by bringing some of the software offerings together as part of the Enterprise Software group. LNS sees this as a big step in the right direction strategically, and should prove of great benefit to current ABB customers as well as prospects.
• However, ABB currently has important software products that remain outside of its Enterprise Software group and it remains to be seen if these solutions will receive the required attention, especially when considering the breadth of ABB’s portfolio. Two examples of this are the company’s Manufacturing Execution System (MES) offering, and the aforementioned Decathlon for Data Centers.
• ABB has a full-fledged MES offering with some good customers currently leveraging this MES across discrete, process, and batch industries.
• ABB might have some ground to cover in MES compared to some of its closest competitors in this space. Companies like GE, Siemens, Schneider Electric and Rockwell Automation have been heavily focused on the software business with many announcing reorganizations to increase resources allocated to software over the past several years and.
• Another area we would like to hear from ABB is around their offerings in IoT. While there were number of products that were categorized as IoT solution, ABB will need a holistic offering and vision around how their industrial clients can leverage these solutions to drive value.
• To answer the question, yes—ABB can compete effectively in the software business. But there is still some grounds to cover. ABB has had a lot of critical parts of the software business for quite a while and has been slower than many of its competitors in pulling it all together.
I agree with Mehul for the most part. I knew ABB had an MES offering, and I’ve interviewed Marc Leroux many times over the years. But it always seemed a little under the covers. The same with the Ventyx acquisition. It was easy to forget about it as it didn’t seem to get the promotion it deserved.
ABB is such a diverse conglomerate that sometimes it’s hard to know what it focuses on. I always followed the automation—primarily process automation. Several years ago, I think at Hannover but maybe SPS in Nuremberg, ABB executives explained the factory automation offering and the added emphasis the company was placing on it. But there are so many things and so few promotional dollars.
Also a few years ago, ABB decided to add its Power users to its Automation user group conference—hence Automation and Power World. However, the first two of those featured much more power and much less automation. It looks as if the company is striking a balance at the conference. But the Power division is still a laggard in performance.
ABB is a strong company, but it has much work to do in order to reach peak performance.