ABB Connects, Collaborates and Co-Creates with Customers

By Bob Gill

Industry Trends

ARC was recently invited to tour ABB’s Customer Innovation Center in Singapore, which was officially launched in the fourth quarter of 2018.  The new complex, on the site of ABB’s long-time country headquarters, emphasizes the company’s industrial digital offerings and helping customers boost capabilities and performance levels in a collaborative and co-creative environment.  Five separate facilities are housed in the complex: Collaborative Operations Center; Digital Solutions Center; Power & Water Innovation Center; Robotics Applications Center; and the Smarter Building Center.

The Collaborative Operations Center (COC),  ABB’s first such facility in Southeast Asia, is particularly relevant and interesting. ARC has evangelized for quite some time now that one of the clear opportunities from Industrial IoT and digital technologies for product suppliers is the opportunity to develop a much deeper and longer relationship with customers through provision of a far more sophisticated post-sale services offering.

Customer Innovation Center The%20ABB%20Ability%20Collaborative%20Operations%20Center%20in%20Singapore.JPG

So it is with the Collaborative Operations Center, or to give it its full name, the ABB Ability Collaborative Operations Center, where in-house experts, through access to plant data from ABB customer sites located in Singapore and the region, are able to support customers in a wide variety of operational aspects, including asset health, cybersecurity, emissions monitoring, energy efficiency, performance optimization, and safety management.  ABB Ability is the name given to the company’s cross-industry digital offering, from device to edge to cloud, and which incorporates the Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure as well as more than 200 Industrial IoT solutions.   

Digitally Enabled Services

At the Singapore Collaborative Operations Center, a total of 13 services are on offer to an ABB customer, and these can be availed once the requisite connection between COC and plant is in place. For many customers, the Analytics and Visualization service is a good place to start the interaction with ABB.  Through a set of dashboards, which are provided to the customer site as well as the COC, staff can assess how a plant is performing, which are the areas that require attention, and where they should focus, i.e., what would be the most beneficial things for them to do.  Another service, Simulation, is a high-fidelity simulator for creating production scenarios and establishing optimum operating points.  And with the Performance Optimization service, customers can, for example, achieve  a profitable balance between production output and raw material usage.

Asset Health and Condition Monitoring are two more of the available services, but as Nirupa Chander, Country Service Manager & Digital Lead, ABB Singapore, emphasizes to ARC, the COC is not designed or meant to be a customer support center; ABB already has a dedicated center for 24/7 support at its Singapore HQ that caters to equipment downtime issues.  Rather, the COC’s emphasis is on overall performance, which necessitates a focus on productivity and quality, not just availability.

Technology + Expertise

Aside from the enabling digital technologies, a key aspect of the COC is its human resources – people with the requisite process automation expertise and domain knowledge to help ABB customers improve the performance of their plants.  Currently, the industries served by the Collaborative Operations Center in Singapore are oil & gas, petrochemicals, power generation, pulp and paper, metals and mining, and water plants and networks.     

While some customers are always connected online, others connect to the Collaborative Operations Center at a predetermined and agreed frequency e.g. every morning or once a week.  Customers can also receive notifications when, say, a process limit is breached. The different levels of engagement and interaction correspond to the different service levels offered to ABB customers.

Over at the Digital Solutions Center, the focus is on co-creation and development rather than deployment. Typically, the trigger for that development work is a customer coming in with a problem statement, and ABB developing a new solution outside of the conventional R&D process. In one case,  a customer wanted to ensure all its workers adhered to safety helmet rules. The developed solution, which uses machine learning, triggers an alarm in the System 800xA DCS to alert a control room operator when a worker is not correctly following the plant’s safety helmet rules. 

Power, Water, Buildings, Robots

A brief description of the other facilities within the Customer Innovation Center. Based around the  Symphony Plus control system, the Power & Water Innovation Center helps customers in those industries reap the benefits of digitalization and meeting challenges, such as market complexity, regulatory compliance and cybersecurity. The Smarter Building Center targets customers looking to innovate building environments and optimize aspects, such as comfort, security, energy efficiency, and electrical protection, with ABB expertise and technology.

And, against a backdrop of ever increasing needs for manufacturers to boost flexibility, productivity and reliability, the Robotics Applications Center demonstrates the latest robot technology and allows end customers, channel partners and ABB to run trials with actual products, assemble robotics systems and conduct factory acceptance tests before on-site implementation.  It also serves as a live learning and collaborative environment through research and problem-solving from real industrial cases.

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