Catching Up With ABB Automation and Power World

Catching Up With ABB Automation and Power World

Ulrich Spiesshofer, ABB CEO

Ulrich Spiesshofer, ABB CEO

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
• Robotics
• 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.

Shah’s Takeaways

• 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.

Gary’s Take

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.

Catching Up With ABB Automation and Power World

ABB Automation and Power World

Ulrich Spiesshofer, ABB CEO

Ulrich Spiesshofer, ABB CEO

I’m sad that I could not make it to the 2015 edition of Automation and Power World, ABB’s user group meeting in Houston. That there is a lot of energy and information, I have no doubt.

There has not been much news popping up in my news feeds this week. Control Global, as usual, has the official show daily. Most interesting would have been CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer’s keynote explaining the company’s position.

ABB has faced some financial difficulties over the past 18 months or so. It has shed a number of businesses. Several key executives were moved from the automation business to the power business in order to bolster its strength.

Here are two interesting stories from the conference compliments to my friends Jim Montague and Mike Baccidore.

ABB CEO Affirms Commitment to Responsible Growth

Building the Business Case for Industrial IoT

Automation Conferences and Jim Pinto

Automation Conferences and Jim Pinto

I have a potpourri of items to start the day. In the morning I leave for a week serving at the Tijuana Christian Mission. We will do a variety of service projects including building a section of a cinder-block security wall at its Rosarito orphanage site. We will do some work at the women’s shelter. We will also have some “real” Mexican tacos and check out the Pacific Ocean. I will be writing ahead, but there may be some gaps.


I decided that I just had too much going on along with watching my budget to attend this year’s ABB Automation and Power World event in Houston. This is the first one I’ve missed. And, yes, I do feel some withdrawal pain. What little news I’ve seen so far says that attendance is about 8,000. That is fantastic. I have seen no other news so far.

There were a couple of press releases in general. I subscribe to news feeds using Feedly on my iPad. I scan hundreds of items a day. Unfortunately, whatever Web technology ABB uses, when I click on the teaser lead in to the story to go to the Website, nothing happens. I’ve reported it to ABB several times in the past. For now, I don’t tweet or write up these items–I can’t see them.

Jim Pinto on Tolerance

My friend Jim Pinto who once wrote a monthly column on automation for me has switched his outlook on life. He has been tackling social problems lately in his new blog.

The latest edition is an impassioned plea for tolerance. He talks about treating other people with dignity. Certainly that is a life skill that will help you become successful except in the most toxic of organizational environment. But certainly successful as a person.

The piece did send me in search of a book in my library from the late 60s called “A Critique of Pure Tolerance.” For you philosophers, you might get just a sniff of Kant in the title. Rightly so. Three philosophers contributed essays–a Hegelian, a Kantian, and a positivist. One author was Robert Paul Wolfe. I can neither remember the other two or find the book right now. The point was (throwback to anti-VietNam protests) that sometimes you really shouldn’t tolerate the thoughts of others. I just offer that as a token of meaningless debate.

Real news from Dassault

Dassault Apriso 40Just received this update. By the way, I think these pre-configured apps are the beginning of the future for manufacturing software. Seems Apriso is making us smart–at least according to the press relations manager. Version 4.0 of Dassault Systèmes’ DELMIA Apriso Manufacturing Process Intelligence (MPI) application suite is now available. New Maintenance, Logistics and Warehouse Intelligence Packs add visibility to another 200+ new KPIs.

Manufacturers operating globally are challenged to accurately measure analytics across sites to identify “best-in-class” performance. MPI 4.0 now offers 700+ pre-configured, built-in measures and KPIs within seven DELMIA Apriso Intelligence Packs. Intelligence Packs are pre-configured to work out-of-the-box with existing Apriso products (or may be integrated with other vendor products) to deliver the industry’s most robust EMI solution for global manufacturing excellence.

MPI 4.0 now offers Maintenance, Logistics and Warehouse Intelligence Packs, in addition to existing Production, Machine, Labor and Quality Intelligence Packs.

Advanced manufacturing strategies

There is one thing that puzzles me. Does anyone care about the variety of “smart manufacturing” theories and initiatives that take up so much room in magazines and blogs these days? I keep asking and writing, but the response is muted.

Granted, the European initiatives, principally Industrie 4.0, seem to be supplier driven. The US counterpart, Smart Manufacturing, has a government component, but is largely academic backed by some private companies who wish to take advantage of a pool of Ph.D. candidate researchers. It does talk about building a platform. However, the commercial impact is still in the distant future.

Just checking in. I’m working on a paper. If you have anything to contribute, I’m all ears.

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