ABB Customer World joins people, Industry 4.0

April 17, 2017
About 8,000 attendees learned how digitalization and IIoT can complement human users during mid-March user-group conference and exhibition in Houston.

The challenges to the energy, process automation and other industrial sectors have never been greater, but luckily the solutions for overcoming them have never been better. They just require bringing people and these digitalized tools together to complement each other, and achieve their true potential. This was the main takeaway for about 8,000 attendees who took in the keynotes, conference sessions, panel discussions and other gatherings at ABB Customer World 2017 on March 13-16 in Houston, which returned re-branded after a two-year hiatus.

Overall, ABB has been transforming, and is now globally number one or number two in its four main business areas—first in process control, motion control, power transmission and distribution, and second in electrification and robotics, according to ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer. “We want to be your partner of choice, and we won't rest in our efforts to bring you new technology to serve you, when you need it, wherever you are,” said Spiesshofer in his keynote address.  

Over the past seven years, ABB has invested $10 billion in R&D, organic growth and acquisitions in the U.S. “We now employ 20,000 people and operate 60 manufacturing sites in the U.S.,” adds Spiesshofer. “Here, ABB is number one for power grids and motion, and we’re the first global company to produce robots in the U.S.”

Fourth industrial revolution

ABB's recent growth is fortunate because it's already helping users cope with the economic and technical upheavals brought on by everything from low oil and gas prices to the IIoT.

[sidebar id =1]“Renewables are kicking into the grid, hand-in-hand with oil and gas,” says Spiesshofer. On the supply side, utilities must cope with more feed-in points, longer distances, volatility and unpredictability. On the demand side, electric vehicle charging is growing, and data center power consumption is rising, he said. “Electrons must arrive safely, reliably and predictably at the point of consumption,” he adds.

To aid these efforts, ABB and its high-voltage, direct-current technology are involved in half of the 220 major, long-distance power line projects going on worldwide, including the 40-year-old, 800-mile Pacific Intertie, which is being upgraded to 4-GW capacity. On a local level, after a Consolidated Edison substation in Lower Manhattan was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, ABB upgraded it, eliminated 80% of its cabling by replacing copper networks with fiberoptics, reduced its footprint by 30%, and gave it remote monitoring capabilities to streamline maintenance and improve reliability.

Similarly, while the first three industrial revolutions—steam, assembly lines and automation—replaced muscle power with machines, Spiessoher explains, “The fourth replaces brain power with artificial intelligence (AI) and computer processing capability. Now, workers often must change careers within a generation. We must seize this opportunity, but we must also take people with us despite the unprecedented speed of change. We need to avoid creating anxiety about work. Historically, jobs may change, but the amount of work goes up. New jobs appear for solution developers, application engineers, software specialists, etc. We must invest in education to be sure people prosper.”

ABB Ability architecture

While ABB has been a mostly quiet digital champion over the years, connecting 70 million smart devices in 70,000 control systems, Spiesshofer adds, “Now we’re adding an overarching digital architecture to combine them with human expertise—ABB Ability.”

ABB Ability merges AI, control and connectivity to drive digital differentiation. ABB Ability was developed in conjunction with Microsoft, which provides common technologies for enabling device, edge and cloud application delivery.

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“ABB Ability combines the ‘digital Lego box,’—the cloud, networks and devices—with domain expertise and process know-how to enable you to serve your customers better,” says Spiesshofer. “ABB Ability helps us assess, know more about processes and situations, predict what will happen, and let manufacturers produce more by avoiding downtime, improving processes and running smarter to achieve OEE better than anyone. ABB Ability is ABB offering to work with you and bring it together.

“Digitization can bring you a quantum leap in utilization, where a few percent can make you a hero. If you stand still and say, ‘This is not for me,’ your competitiveness will be significantly deteriorated. It’s a tremendous opportunity for prosperity, wealth and employment. Let’s write the future together, ABB and you.”

Customer World highlights

Some of the other notable releases and events at ABB Customer World 2017 included:

• Select I/O redundant, Ethernet-based single-channel input/output (I/O) system that supports ABB’s next-generation project execution model. Called “Intelligent Projects,” the new methodology streamlines execution while decreasing complexity, project delays and cost overruns. Available for process automation and safety applications, this extension to the System 800xA family of flexible I/O solutions lets each I/O channel be individually characterized using a plug-in signal conditioning module (SCM) to streamline project execution.

• ABB zenon data management system offers scalability and the necessary capabilities to ensure data integrity. It has hardware drivers, fieldbus and other connectivity to bring in diverse equipment, and communicates up to SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, process gateways, SQL, OPC-UA and more. Security features are integrated, and it can be used across the plant utilities and building systems, as well as production, packaging and warehouse applications.

• ABB's two wireless sensing solutions include its WiMon wireless monitor—a bearing-mounted, screw-on, battery-powered vibration sensor—and its upcoming Smart Sensor for low-voltage electric motors on compressors, pumps and fans. WiMon has been available for several years, uses WirelessHART protocol for communications and organizes its network as a mesh grid. It performs 1-second measurements and can take measurements continuously or at up to 8-hour intervals. WiMon's range is 40-50 meters, unless it's elevated, in which case its range can be up to several hundred meters.

For full, day-by-day coverage of ABB Customer World 2017, visit