Turning Challenges into Opportunities

IEN Europe interviewed Ramanath Ramakrishnan, EVP & Chief Technology Officer at Eaton. He discussed Eaton’s view on, and current work within, the major technology pillars and shared his perspective on future projects, products and major achievements

  • Turning Challenges into Opportunities
    Turning Challenges into Opportunities

IEN Europe: What has been Eaton’s major focus and strategy behind the launch of new products in the last year?

Mr. Ramakrishnan: Across all our key power management segments - electrical, hydraulics and mechanical, the general trend towards higher efficiency and power density, increased connectivity and intelligence continue to drive our strategic direction. 

Population growth and the ever increasing need for sustainable energy continues to drive the growth of renewables such as solar and wind power and an increasing pace for microgrids in developed and developing nations. This is shaping some of our latest developments. For grid management solutions, we have increased our investments in energy storage and microgrids solutions across a wide range of applications, from residential, commercial and industrial to utility scale. For residential and commercial applications, Eaton has an alliance with carmaker Nissan to recycle Nissan Leaf lithium-ion batteries. We have combined our uninterruptible power supply, power conversion and circuit protection expertise and developed a single unit that combines several aspects of energy storage and demand management in one system. This system can take multiple inputs from renewable sources and the grid, in combination with storage to deliver clean, balanced power, on-demand, while giving a “second life” to the used Nissan Leaf batteries.  

In Europe, Middle East and Africa, for large industrial and utility scale applications, Eaton has an alliance with AES’ Energy Storage Platform to provide solutions and ensure long-term operation. AES’ Advancion®-4 is the most proven energy storage solution available has an industry-leading compact footprint and a patented distributed control system that enables customers to maximize revenue, reduce total cost of ownership, and meet the highest levels of system reliability.

Solid-state or LED lighting is another great example of our solution portfolio that is saving energy in a wide range of applications. As an example, if we look at a typical industrial application, our LED solutions not only require about 20 per cent fewer light fixtures compared to metal-halide lamps for the same job, they last 300 per cent longer, and reduce green-house-gas emissions by 80 per cent, resulting in a very compelling return on investment. In addition to these benefits, the ability to add various sensors, connectivity and intelligence into LED lighting is fundamentally transforming the value our solutions offer to our customers. 

Other major technology shifts that are happening as we speak are digitalization and industry 4.0. Given Eaton’s depth and breadth in hydraulics and electrical technologies, we are in a unique position to offer electro-hydraulics mechatronics systems for the machinery-OEM segment.  As we have featured our solutions at the 2015 SPS IPC Drives in Nuremberg, and more recently in 2016 at the Hannover Messe, we provide innovative solutions by combining our hydraulic “power-on-demand” architectures, variable speed drive and SmartWire-DT lean connectivity inside and outside the control panel. These solutions open doors for next generations of machines that not only save energy, but are also IoT ready to provide additional productivity and efficiency gains.

IEN Europe: What are the main challenges the Power Management sector will face in the future and how Eaton has planned to meet them?

Mr. Ramakrishnan: In our applications, the next powerful opportunity is digitalization – the use of digital technologies to create new revenue streams by improving efficiency, productivity and uptime of assets and safety of people near them. The challenge will be to develop and change business models to make this transformation into something that matters – then make it work! This transformation when successful accomplished will make (industrial) data the new currency. 

Within Eaton, we are running a series of real-world digitalization “experiments” across a broad range of products and applications. They range from commercial vehicle, microgrids and energy storage in defence and commercial segments, intelligent lighting, circuit protection and power back-up systems as examples. In order to accomplish these, we have a wide range of technology collaborations with customers and key suppliers, government agencies and academia globally. We continue to make targeted investments in our global corporate research and technology team and engineering centres of excellence in the areas of data analytics, software architectures and communications including IoT platforms, controls, modelling and simulations to name a few.

IEN Europe: Can you mention a breakthrough innovation that Eaton launched into the market in the last few years?

Mr. Ramakrishnan: Eaton has launched the first diagnostic system that provides permanent temperature monitoring of the critical areas of switchgear systems. Building on its low-voltage switchgear expertise, we are helping reduce the risk of plant shutdowns through continuous temperature monitoring of vital system components and the generation of alerts in the event of imminent system overload. 

The system analyses behaviour in various operating conditions, generating valuable information on switchgear capacity. Using this information, system upgrades can be implemented at significantly less risk. The diagnostic system is suitable for all kinds of primary distribution systems - in particular for switchgear that conducts high currents, is housed outdoors or in containers and for facilities in which extensions or alterations are anticipated. With this new technology, Eaton supports machine and panel builders in significantly improving the reliability, availability and service life of their electrical systems.

Finally, in addition to the energy storage and the electro-hydraulics mechatronics breakthroughs I mentioned earlier, our PowerXL DE1 variable speed starter is a product that bridges the gap between a standard electromechanical starter and a variable frequency drive. With industry-leading ease-of-use and a narrow, compact housing, the DE1 is designed to be used in flexible applications with value propositions unique to each application. This is an example of how we position ourselves in the industrial sector and to machine builders. Our message is “Build it – protect it – connect it with Eaton.” Our brand promise continues to emphasize “we make what matters work”.