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Digital transformation and the industrial internet of things at energy giant ABB

By April 20, 2019Product News

Digital transformation continues to be important as companies of all sizes modernize their operations. For large organizations, "becoming digital" is a complex effort that involves technology and business process changes together with adopting new mindsets, business models, and corporate cultures.

Given all these components, we can hardly overstate the complexity of genuine digital transformation.

Infrastructure and energy giant, ABB, is currently undertaking a large-scale program of digital transformation. With $36 billion in revenue and 135,000 employees, the company is driving change across its large portfolio of operations. The firm traces its founding back to 1883.

ABB describes its offering within two value propositions: "bringing electricity from power plant to plug" and "automating industries from natural resources to finished products." These broad points cover the extensive scope of the company's operations.

To explore ABB's transformation, I spoke with the company's Chief Digital Officer, Guido Jouret, on episode 312 of the CXOTalk series of conversations with the world's top innovators in business and technology.

Although the discussion was wide-ranging, two broad themes emerged: the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and how a large organization approaches digital transformation.

Watch an excerpt from our conversation in the video embedded above and read the edited comments below. You can also see the full, unedited video and complete transcript at the CXOTalk site.

Tell us about ABB?
Guido Jouret: ABB is involved in the movement of electricity, so we do the transmission, the distribution of electricity from power generation to your house or your building. We also turn that electricity into movement with electric motors, actuators, and industrial robots. We're one of the largest makers of industrial robots on the planet, so whether it's moving electrons or using electrons to make things happen, that's ABB.

How do you work with customers?
Guido Jouret: The first place we always start is with sensing. We can start doing what's called condition monitoring. We start by saying, instead of doing maintenance every year, every six months, whatever the time interval is, we can do maintenance when the machine requires it, and we can detect problems before they arise. We reduce downtime, so that's about extending asset life and reducing the unplanned downtime. That's the basics.

The next level above that is, if you can not only sense but also act, increasingly these devices are programmable so that we can change their behavior; we can change their performance. That means we can make them more energy efficient. We can make them perform faster. We can make a number of tradeoffs. That depends on the customer. What do they want to do? We could boost productivity that way.

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