Integration, Energy Efficiency Central to ABB Strategy

March 25, 2009
ABB CTO Peter Terwiesch Outlined How ABB Will Continue to Help the Automation Industry Save Energy and Improve Productivity

“We must increase productivity without compromising safety,” began Peter Terwiesch, ABB chief technology officer, in an executive briefing on the company’s future direction in automation at ABB Automation and Power World in Orlando today.

“We aren’t seeing customers that are too interested in building new plants right now, so our objective must be to extend asset life,” Terwiesch continued. “We must help our customers optimize energy use and help them overcome workforce shortages now and in the future. We must focus on integration, new functionality, more flexible infrastructure and open standards.”

Noting the 30th anniversary of ABB’s safety offering this year, Terwiesch discussed the flexibility of the company’s current approach. “There are two main types of safety systems now available,” he said. “One is the traditional separate system, and the other is the fully integrated safety system. I believe that the separate and the combined systems will coexist, and ABB can provide both.”

“But seamless integration reduces complexity,” he went on. “A common HMI produces increased operational excellence. A common means of recording sequences of events provides improved root-cause analysis. A single engineering environment means more efficient engineering and better use of manpower. Common control and safety systems mean reduced training too.”

“The ecological payback time on using one of our drives is a single day.” ABB CTO Peter Terwiesch outlined how the company will continue to help industry save energy and improve productivity. 

ABB’s commitment and capability in safety is not limited to safety instrumented systems. Terwiesch showed dramatic slides of how well the new UL845 Motor Control Center resists arc-flash. “This motor control center is an example of safety-based switchgear selection,” Terwiesch said. “It is designed for safety, with a fault-free zone, integrated doors preventing exposure to live parts and an IP20 (finger-safe) rating with modules removed.”

“Across all industries, 80% of energy is lost between generation and use. It is a leaky pipe, as it were,” Terwiesch said, “but we can reduce losses with ABB technology by 20% to 30%.”

“ABB’s unified approach to automation and electrical integration in the System800xA will increase productivity, decrease downtime, reduce maintenance costs and produce real savings in energy costs,” Terwiesch declared. “By bypassing the traditional point-to-point approach to connectivity by using standards-based communications technology on the automation and power sides, we can provide a real benefit, and we are already doing it.”

“At Statoil Hydro Grane, the savings are already being realized,” Terwiesch said. “They’ve reduced engineering man-hours by 20% to 30%. They’ve reduced supply-chain man-hours by 50%. Change orders have been reduced by 90% to 95%, with capital expenditure savings of greater than 20%, and operations expenditure savings of approximately 20% as well. We expect to see the same savings as a result of our new five-year agreement with Petrobras,” Terwiesch added.

ABB’s variable-speed drives are helping customers in classic and new applications, and as a function of carbon usage, the “ecological payback of using our drives is one day,” Terwiesch added. He called that “return on natural capital.”

ABB’s consistent technology, along with a consistent diagnostic concept, can radically improve the capability of predictive asset management, Terwiesch said. “For example, consider the integrated intelligence we’ve been building into our drives. Not only can we offer asset management capability on automation products, but also on the electrical products in the same plant for substantial savings in asset utilization and increased ability to perform maintenance based on consumption and need rather than on time.”

Terwiesch described how ABB remote access can help customers by providing 24/7 access to subject matter experts who may no longer be available at the plant level due to workforce reductions and retirements. “This remote access and connectivity can lead to integrated operations between production, operations and maintenance and can save customers substantially,” he said.

He featured the company’s WirelessHART adaptor slated for roll-out later this year, and talked about how important open standards like WirelessHART are to ABB. “In fact,” he said, “that’s why we’ve decided to begin to make our WISA (Wireless Interface for Sensors and Actuators) into an open standard. We’ve already had FESTO begin to offer their own products using WISA.”

Terwiesch pointed out that the ABB iteration of the WirelessHART adaptor is a loop-powered device without batteries. “Most of the applications we see,” he said, “and all the legacy wired HART applications already have power. We see no reason to burden our customers’ maintenance departments with unnecessary batteries to change.” He did say that at a later date, ABB would probably have a battery unit for the other applications where power isn’t available.

To close, Terwiesch talked about his personal love affair with robotics and how the applications base for robotics has spread beyond the automotive industries. “Even in China, where there is no shortage of labor,” he said, “we’ve made headway with our robots, because it is a matter of quality and consistency for Chinese industries. But many of those customers are too small for the traditional robots. We’re working on making robotics available for smaller companies that don’t have their own PhDs who can do setups and design software. We want the average workman to be able to put together and run a robotics installation,” he concluded.