Swiss engineering and power technology giant ABB Ltd., Zurich, Switzerland, has been feeling pressure from activist shareholders over recent months aimed at getting the company to spin off its Power Grids business unit. The company conducted an extensive review of its operations and strategies, and in the end ABB decided it likes the power business just fine.
ABB recently announced high-profile partnerships aimed at two of its core markets for future growth, and power grids feature prominently, along with the company’s aspiration to help build what’s called the fourth industrial revolution — a change of production methods based on intensive use of plant-floor data and sophisticated modeling and analysis.
To help drive further growth in its power grids business, ABB announced a partnership with engineering firm Fluor Corp., Irving, Texas, in which the companies will work together on large-scale turnkey engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) offerings for utility substations.
The partnership combines ABB’s established position in electric power transmission and distribution products and services with Fluor’s expertise in handling large EPC projects. The companies are aiming to capture the prospects of robust power infrastructure investments as utilities and large end users build out systems incorporating smart grid and distributed generation technologies.
On the automation and industrial software front, ABB and Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., said they will work together to build a cloud-based industrial networking and data handling platform. The platform, ABB Ability, which launched last month, will use the Microsoft Azure intelligent cloud for integrated connectivity.
“Together with ABB, we are providing industrial customers with the digital technology and cloud platform to empower every person, team and business system within an organization to glean new insights and drive faster decision making to seize new growth and opportunities,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft, in a joint press release.
In its ABB Ability platform, ABB goes head-to-head with industrial software offerings among its international competitors, including GE’s Predix, Schneider Electric’s Struxureware and Siemens’ Digital Enterprise. The platform combines ABB’s portfolio of digital solutions and services across all its customer segments.
ABB’s new integrated cloud platform will be a key enabler for ABB Ability and is expected to create a large, open, digital industrial ecosystem for customers, partners, suppliers and developers.
As ABB standardizes its platform on Azure, the company plans to take advantage of Azure services such as Azure IoT Suite and Cortana Intelligence Suite to capitalize on insights gathered at every level.