Interview number 4 of our virtual round table: Chris Naunheimer, Product Portfolio Manager at ABB Energy Industries, ABB
IEN Europe: How is ABB tackling the Covid-19 emergency?
C. Naunheimer: ABB is managing the current situation with our key focus on keeping our employees, customers and partners safe – and operations running smoothly. We are making sure we have our own people working from home wherever possible, while keeping our factories running and supporting our engineers on-site, in order to continue to serve and support customers during these challenging times. As a global business, our teams are well accustomed to adapting to current events and working flexibly to provide the advice and expertise that our customers, whatever the industrial sector, need.
We are continuing to produce products and supply services across all industries including essential and critical sectors such as utilities, energy, process and hybrid and maritime industries; safeguarding food processing, power generation, water management, tissue production, data centers and the transportation of goods.
IEN Europe: How much has this crisis impacted / will impact on your business?
C. Naunheimer: There is no doubt that the current crisis has impacted on how we do business as well as on how we work with our customers, posing new challenges on teams and technology. Restrictions on travel have meant that we have been forced to work differently, and almost entirely remotely both as a business and in providing services and support to our customers. It has been a tough few months for the business, but ultimately we are confident in the resilience of our operations.
IEN Europe: How do you think this crisis will impact how the industrial sector works in the future and what products/services are you offering customers that can assist in the current situation & alleviate impact?
C. Naunheimer: Necessity has seen an increased demand for agile and flexible solutions that allow industrial operators to enable continuity of all aspects of their operations – this was a growing trend before the current health crisis and we envisage that it will continue.
Ensuring access to and visibility of operations remotely, now more than ever, is at the top of the agenda. Manufacturers and operators are looking to digital technologies to help address the challenges they are facing and as result there is an increased acceptance of remote technologies and integration of artificial intelligence platforms.
This can be seen at a macro and a micro level. For example, in Norway we are working with operators across oil & gas and water sectors to live-stream data directly from their facilities’ control rooms, monitoring production processes and assets in real time, collecting and transferring different types of data from multiple sources into one cloud platform to enable analytics and help them make better decisions.
Where support is then needed for analysis, we offer 24/7 remote monitoring of operations by directly connecting ABB asset and automation experts to customer production facilities via ABB Ability™ Collaborative Operations. With this service, remotely based engineers continuously and virtually access, gather and analyse information on assets, processes, and risks on behalf of a producer, categorizing and prioritizing issues that enable customers to act with limited onsite staff.
Operators are becoming far more proactive in assessing how digital technologies and automation can help them and as a result they are beginning to understand that safety systems, communication systems, cybersecurity and dashboard technology, is available and ready to deploy.
To this effect we are also working closely with many producers across the process and energy sectors to empower them to conduct their own analysis of operations. Utilizing a cloud-based portal ‘My Control System’ they can access their control system information to reveal support cases, service history, e-commerce, technical documentation, spare parts and consumables data related to their installed base. As a result they can run diagnostic checks, understand lifecycle and maintenance forecasts, and cater to inventory and supply planning without bottlenecks.
In the field we are also seeing a higher acceptance of augmenting technology to solve resource gaps when it comes to maintaining assets. Many companies are looking at ways in which they can simplify maintenance and repairs to physical assets, reduce meantime to repair, minimize downtime and increases overall equipment availability, and improves safety.
In response to this need we have recently deployed ABB Ability™ Augmented Field Procedures which enables operators to access hands-free, real-time data related to plant assets, processes or procedures using industrial tablets, smart phones and Microsoft HoloLens glasses. The systems can be used in any industrial environment, including both greenfield and brownfield sites and is a drive to increase real-time collaboration and immediate data entry from the user interface in the field.
Building on this is an app called ABB Ability ™ Remote Insights™ that connects field personnel to remote experts offering diagnostic and repair guidance while in the field. Engineers in the field can stream live video of the condition of equipment and problems at the site to remotely based experts, who in turn delivered live audio instruction that was overlaid onto video to help them resolve issues quickly. This app alone has been deployed to hundreds of customers in the past couple of months.
Another area industrial companies are reviewing is compliance and ensuring they pose no risk to process safety despite a curtailed workforce. We are working closely with customers in this respect to develop and apply alternative approaches to inspection, testing and assessments in order to ensure process and personal safety, and regulatory compliance is maintained.
Supported by video consultations, we have been able to remotely deliver several risk-based inspections including virtual Factory Acceptance Tests, Hazops and Control of Major Accidents Hazards (COMAH) reports to customers across the process industries and energy sectors.
IEN Europe: How would you fill the gap of industrial events for lead generations and networking in this moment?
C. Naunheimer: We are working hard to remain connected to our customers in this new era of working. Through live webinars, virtual conferences, recorded presentations, podcasts, interactive and virtual trade showcases, and more one-on-one conversations with video conferencing across collaborative cloud environments, we are still able to remain in touch with the marketplace. What is more, these collaboration tools are allowing us to reach even more people and cross pollinate content further than we would have had at singular one-off industrial trade events. We see a new trend for more remote and virtual events in the future.