NMW 2002: ABB Automation leader discusses trends

Chicago, Ill. - John Trostheim, president of the Automation Technology Products Division, ABB Inc. (Wickliffe, O.), talked to Control Engineering March 17, discussing ways the company has changed to better meet customer needs.


Chicago, Ill. - John Trostheim, president of the Automation Technology Products Division, ABB Inc . (Wickliffe, O.), talked to Control Engineering March 17, discussing ways the company has changed to better meet customer needs.

Automation today mandates attention to customer needs more than previously, Mr. Trostheim says, and ABB has changed its internal organization to respond, along with changes to the technology delivered.

'We need to listen more to customers. We have to be involved in assessing their needs, and follow up more on their progress. Software especially has to be driven from the outside, from customers' needs, rather than from within. We've gained flexibility in how we can implement technologies. Now customers have options about where functionality goes. We're adaptable to what needs to be done.'

For instance, he pointed out, a smart power meter and smart relay can have the same functionality with the power of embedded intelligence. However, it's difficult for some to consider integrating technologies in non-traditional ways, he noted.

On the software side, ABB's Industrial IT initiative has become the glue to unite legacy systems with new platforms. Aspect objects can be reused and programming knowledge and investments carried over into future investments and upgrades. 'Things were very fragmented previously... there's much to save, for customers and for us, by using standards. Going forward we save resources.'

In the next five years, companies that have adopted the most flexible structures will do the best. 'You have to be adaptable to do what's needed to be done.' Information flow, and integration of new technologies 'will help customers protect their investments,' he says.

As for creative financing to pay for automation investments-such as revenue sharing agreements-'after we sit down with the customer and work out the implementation, most abandon the idea of sharing the savings, because they see the results are real and don't want to share them,' Mr. Trostheim says.

ABB Inc. was among 35 winners of the 2001 Control Engineering Editors' Choice Awards, given on March 17, the eve of National Manufacturing Week, which includes the Industrial Automation Show. Mr. Trostheim, in Chicago to receive and award for the Control IT 53MC5000B Process Control Station, made the comments to Control Engineering after the ceremony.

For more about the awards, click here . For more about the ceremony, click here .

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief

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