Digital developments, cloud platform help with IIoT, robotics, automation, electrical products, and power grid

New digital products based on an integrated cloud platform aim to help with opportunities from the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and digitalization, according to ABB, which has formed new departments for robotics and motion control, industrial automation, electrical products, and power grids, according to Control Engineering China.

By Stone Shi June 3, 2017

A new generation of ABB digital solutions based on an integrated cloud platform enabled with Microsoft cooperation is helping with Internet of Things and digitalization opportunities, announced ABB in October 2016. ABB also announced the establishment of four market-oriented business departments this past January: robotics and motion control, industrial automation, electrical products, and power grids. Control Engineering China interviewed Zhang Jun, ABB director of strategic markets and business development of the industrial automation business department, about ABB’s role in automation.

Jun’s current department replaced the former ABB process automation business department and integrated products including programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and heavy duty rectifiers previously affiliated with the business department of discrete automation and motion control.

Goal: Better customer service

The integration more closely aligns ABB with markets and customers, Jun said, as the "new framework will help us make deeper exploitation of potential in the industrial digital field, and offer better service for our customers." The new department centralizes ABB’s control products, systems, and solutions for easier customer connections and new product development, he suggested.

With changing markets, ABB often adjusts its business framework.

For example, ABB acquired Gomtec to strengthen the robot collaboration and cable sales businesses, and strengthened cooperation with Fluor and Aibel in the field of large substation and offshore wind power. Internally, structural fine tuning continues. Larger enterprises may become less flexible and agile, but this hasn’t been a problem at ABB, Jun suggested.

"Changes help development," said Jun. ABB’s growth in China has been in parallel with the general development of China’s manufacturing industry, Jun said; growth in electric power for example, from the 1980s to the beginning of this century, follows the general development of China’s electric power.

"ABB enjoyed rapid development in China’s market, while the general trend of industrial energy conservation and environmental protection stimulated rapid growth of ABB in high-performance motor and frequency converter business," Jun said.

Jun predicts that future development will be in new markets, the fourth industrial revolution, and digitalization. As a multinational enterprise with a 100-year history, ABB thrived during prior industrial revolutions. ABB built the first steam turbine in Europe, installed the first high-voltage dc power transmission line globally, developed early industrial robots, and in 2004 introduced a collaborative automation system that integrated distributed control systems, electrical control systems, and safety systems.

To better develop digitalization, ABB’s strategic partnership with Microsoft combines Microsoft’s intelligent cloud platform Azure with ABB’s industry knowledge and industrial solutions to increase customer value. Jun said the ABB industrial cloud platform will be combined with ABB’s Ability digital solution to create a large and open digital industrial ecological system for customers, partners, suppliers, and developers. 

Applying Big Data

In Jun’s opinion, the key to digital development lies in proper application of Big Data. At present, ABB has integrated the previously scattered data under the framework of Industrie 4.0 and builds an algorithm model to improve trend analysis.

"The application of Big Data also lies in the intensification of real-time data connections. ABB has made attempts on this, and accumulated rich experience in the field of robotics, shipping, and electric vehicles. We wish that these successful experiences can be expanded to more customer domains and segmented markets."

Jun outlined ABB’s advantages in the shipping industry, since ships tend to operate relatively far from ports, especially in the development of deep-sea resources, and the external environment exerts substantial impact on shipping operations.

Offshore weather and hydrologic situations affect work efficiency and ship safety. Ship operations urgently need "safer and more reliable data analysis to help them carry out operations in a more high-efficiency and safer way," Jun said.

With the promotion of Industrie 4.0, more product value will be developed. For example, Octopus is ABB’s intelligent analysis sea transportation software designed for shipping. More than 400 ships globally use the system.

"Digitalization is not unreachable. We are making efforts to upgrade a conventional electrical product to an intelligent product through these convenient and fast products or systems, and make customers feel the value brought by digitalization," Jun said.

Stone Shi is executive editor-in-chief, Control Engineering China; Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,


Key concepts

  • ABB expands cloud offerings with a Microsoft agreement.
  • Reorganization helps ABB’s focus on robotics and motion control, industrial automation, electrical products, and power grids.
  • Digitalization, Industrie 4.0, IIoT, and market opportunities help.

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