Jack-of-all-trade tech providers will fail at IIoT, says automation specialist ABB
Industrial transformation companies must specialise and collaborate if they are to capitalise on the opportunities afforded by the Industry 4.0 movement, according to Swiss automation company ABB.
The chorus line of companies at Hannover Messe proclaiming ‘end-to-end’ technology solutions for the digital transformation of the manufacturing and supply chain sectors was notable. ABB, presenting its Digital Powertrain automation solutions for connecting manufacturing processes, said otherwise.
“No company can offer everything to everybody; the ones that try to do that will fail,” commented Morten Wierod, senior vice president of ABB’s drives business unit, part of its robotics and motion division. The old maxims work however. “The companies that will win are those that listen to their customers – to their problems and pain points,” he said.
“We all have great things to sell, but it’s about what your customers really need. We can all make big statements [at trade fairs], but it’s about the execution. We need people with the expertise. It’s only as simple and as difficult as that.”
ABB’s new ‘digital powertrain’ suite brings advanced analytics and maintenance planning, among other monitoring services, to industrial operations. The company’s condition monitoring solution, the first release from the ‘digital powertrain’ family, provides an overview of the performance and maintenance requirements of drives, motors, bearings and pumps in industrial equipment.
“We’ve been optimizing powertrains since we introduced Europe’s first steam turbine over 100 years ago,” said Sami Atiya, president of ABB’s robotics and motion division. “Our new condition monitoring combines ABB expertise with real-time IoT sensing and analytics tools. This digital advantage increases process uptime and output for our customers, with less risks and costs.”
Wierod said smart factory robotics and automation is already viable. “The future of the factory is here. It’s about getting the equipment connected to the cloud, getting data in and out of the cloud, getting factory managers using the equipment more efficiency, reducing costs and downtime and improve output.”
He added: “It doesn’t just help to keep equipment connected, it’s about the performance of the equipment. The base performance still needs to be there.”
ABB has integrated Microsoft’s Azure cloud set-up into its ABB Ability connectivity platform, providing an easy to use and secure interface. “It’s a platform for collaboration,” said Wierod.
So far, 100 customers have tested out ABB’s ‘digital powertrain’ suite; a paper manufacturer in Australia has seen ‘shut-downs’ reduce by 30 per cent across 120 separate drives.
Are certain industries, or indeed regions, further down the automation line than others? “The Nordic countries are advanced and open to new technologies; other markets are more conservative,” noted Wierod.
“It’s about openness to using new technologies, but it is also driven by global politics.”
New research by ABB and The Economist has found South Korea, Germany and Singapore are best positioned to lead the world for industrial automation, thanks to their approaches to AI and robotics. These three, along with Japan and Canada, are the top five countries for “automation readiness”, they reckon, scoring high in the report for their innovation, education and labour policies.
ABB announced this month it is to splash €100 million on a new innovation and training campus at the home of Austria-based automation systems manufacturer B&R, which it acquired in 2017.