ABB's Leaders Tackle Big Questions

ABB Executives Chat with Automation and Power World 2010 Attendees

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Another question from the audience asked how ABB's measures non-monetary success in each of its groups?

Spiesshofer: We check market share, of course, but we also use enhanced customer satisfaction scores. These are based on a range of responses about whether a customer would recommend us to a friend or not. This is a key method for helping us learn how we can improve.

Santacana: The recession has been a tough period for everyone, so we've been measuring success even more on project execution. But we also continue to align supply and demand, so we don't lose our edge. For instance, we suffered a 20% drop in demand, which was very drastic. We'd never seen such a drop in such a short time, and at times like this, it's very easy to let some things fall through the cracks. So we've been doing more training and awareness efforts to keep our operations execution at the top of the list.

Another questioner inquired what metrics has ABB been using to break down some of its organizational silos?

Reinikkala: We've been taking a lot of actions to lower some of our silo walls. In fact, our whole company management is being evaluated on group-level scorecards. So everyone from ABB in this room is measured against the success of the entire company, not just measured by the success of their own division, and this also is increasing cooperation. In the past, dealing with several different divisions at once used to confuse customers. The next level is for management to represent themselves to customers, and show that we come from one company. We've already been doing this to some extent and are showing some good results.

Santacana: About 15 or 20 years ago, ABB had separate objectives for each individual country, so we've been working to establish a more regional focus in recent years. We now have eight regional divisions worldwide, and they're run by regional managers with their own target-setting objectives. This allows a lot more cooperation, both between the divisions and with the overall corporation. We're light years ahead of where we used to be.

Hepperla: Now our customers do say that they like us getting rid of the silos, but they also want us to keep our close focus on their specific technology needs. One way we've been doing this is to have more account managers that represent a cross section of disciplines and divisions. We also went from having about 19 enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to settling on just one for better optimization. This and some other efforts have helped us flatten our organizational structure. As a result, customers can now use one invoice or purchase order to pull solutions from the whole company.    

Chatha asked how ABB can convince its own users that combining their power and automation divisions is a useful strategy.

Reinikkala: We just have to talk to the executives of those companies and begin to show them the holistic view of power and automation.

Hepperla: In fact, after working to combine our power and automation events, we began to feel like we were on the right track when we realized that topics like renewables, efficiency and hybrid vehicles weren't on one side or the other. We're still trying to tie these two power and automation worlds together, but there's no longer any debate that energy is what underpins everything.

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