Thought Leaders 2022: David Sullivan

ABB Australia Pty Ltd

Wednesday, 15 December, 2021


Thought Leaders 2022: David Sullivan

What opportunities do you predict for the growth of your industry in 2022?

For utilities and the construction, mobility and industrial sectors, among others, climate change and the responsible use of resources have moved to the top of the global agenda. The global consensus on climate change is driving demand for products, solutions and services that increase energy efficiency and reduce consumption of non-renewable resources, sustainable operations and products increasingly represent a competitive advantage in and of themselves.

Technological innovation will play a critical role in meeting these needs — improving people’s living standards while simultaneously reducing their impact on the environment. We see huge growth opportunities in the implementation of smart, sustainable, digital technologies available today that can achieve energy efficiency and cut electric consumption and costs in industrial, commercial and residential environments.

Smart mobility

In an effort to be more sustainable, cities today are looking for ways to get polluting internal combustion engines off the streets without disrupting the daily flow of people and goods. Going forward, e-mobility is the clear, clean choice. That is why ABB is active across the entire e-mobility value chain, offering a complete range of solutions for the electrification of buses, commercial vehicles, trucks, autonomous vehicles, automobiles, ships and railways. EV chargers can be integrated with domestic solar PV and energy storage through home automation systems to control light, heating and power demand to optimise energy usage from sustainable sources. This will require certified electricians to learn new skills in automation and wireless bus technologies.

Smart industry

It has become essential for companies to reduce energy costs and shrink their carbon footprints as their stakeholders become increasingly concerned about sustainability. Take mining as an example. Australia is leading the charge on the sustainability front in mining. We are seeing miners make strong commitments to the zero emissions target; for instance, FMG has brought forward their net zero target by 10 years to achieve this by 2030.

This greatly impacts decision-making around technology investment and modernisation. It needs to start with a definition of what an organisation’s carbon footprint is, and what falls within their scope of decarbonisation. The next step is to examine the technology and what is currently possible to decarbonise. If companies graph this versus the benefit, the low-hanging fruit should stand out — such as light commercial vehicles moving to electric.

ABB’s whitepaper, ‘The road to decarbonisation in Australian mining – How do we get to net zero?’ goes into further detail about what the journey to decarbonisation looks like for the Australian mining and resources industries, and what practical steps companies within the sector can take now to prepare.

Smart buildings

The world is going digital and the buildings segment is no exception. Applied to buildings, digital technology can increase overall transparency and help optimise building system performance for better occupant comfort and reduced energy use.

When we aim to minimise energy consumption, while still optimising the living conditions in buildings, we need to rethink the whole system from the ground up. Every possible way to save energy must be considered, and the most energy-efficient technologies and techniques must be applied. Together with renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, and energy regeneration technologies, it is possible for buildings to generate surplus energy, which will create extra revenue for the owners when the surplus energy is sold back to the grid.

An energy-efficient building with smart management systems can be a tempting dealmaker on many levels for many different target groups. In the commercial world, investors, developers, buyers and tenants are increasingly aware of how an energy-efficient building can boost the positive reputation of their company.

Is your company working on decarbonisation strategies or net-zero goals to mitigate the effects of climate change in 2022?

The need for action on climate change is becoming ever more urgent. The hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998 and they are increasing in frequency. At the same time, overuse of the earth’s resources and environmental degradation are jeopardising the health and future prospects of huge numbers of people around the world.

With ABB’s 2030 sustainability strategy, we are actively enabling a low-carbon society as well as working with our customers and suppliers to implement sustainable practices across our value chain and the lifecycle of our products and solutions. We are equally committed to driving social progress, along with our suppliers and in our communities.

By far the biggest impact we can have in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is through ABB’s leading technologies, which reduce energy use in industry, buildings and transport — sectors that together account for nearly three-quarters of global energy consumption.

We have set ourselves the ambitious target of helping customers to reduce their annual CO2 emissions by more than 100 megatonnes by 2030. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of 30 million combustion cars. For example, our variable speed drives for electric motors can reduce electricity consumption by up to 25%.

We also want to lead by example by achieving carbon neutrality in our own operations. We will do this by continuing to transition to renewable sources of energy, improving energy efficiency across our factories and sites, and converting our vehicle fleet to electric or other non-emitting alternatives. We have currently identified areas that can reduce our CO2 emissions by at least 80%, and as technologies evolve, we will continuously seek opportunities to do more. In 2020, 32% of all the electricity used by ABB, was either purchased as certified green electricity or generated by our own solar power plants. These results represent an increase of nine percentage points from 2019.

To preserve the earth’s resources today and for future generations, we are embedding circularity across our value chain even more systematically, by reducing waste, increasing recycling and reusability and making our products more durable. By 2030, at least 80% of ABB products and solutions will be covered by our circularity approach. We will also make sure that zero waste from our own operations is disposed of in landfills, wherever this is compatible with local conditions and regulations. Today, close to 40% of our sites have already stopped sending waste to landfills.

We are also leading the way when it comes to supporting our customers and industry on their route to decarbonations. One such example is by helping customers recycle and remanufacture old robots. Remanufacturing enables existing robot users to sell inactive or legacy robots to ABB with an attractive buy back service, rather than scrapping them or leaving them unused. Customers across the world are benefiting from giving old robots a new lease of life. Updating their robots with the latest technologies has helped boost flexibility and productivity, and by extending the lifetime of their robots, has helped maximise their return on investment.

How is your industry preparing for artificial intelligence and/or advanced manufacturing?

Behind automation is AI — artificial intelligence. The starting point for bringing AI into manufacturing is data. Data is king — you can’t have AI without data, and you need to digitalise your assets to get that data. AI is already making manufacturing safer, smarter and more efficient — and the future of this technology holds exponential potential.

At ABB we talk about it in terms of ‘know more, do more, do better, together’. You’re getting data, you’re making decisions based on that data, you’re optimising using AI and you’re on the journey towards autonomy, when it all comes together seamlessly.

Manufacturers need to embrace the Internet of Things (IoT) to start on this journey. That means low-cost sensors and processors embedded in every part of your line, all connected and pumping data into the cloud. Humans simply cannot take in all that data, which is where the algorithms of AI come into play — it turns data into intelligent insights, and insights into action.

AI and learning algorithms revolutionise maintenance. Rather than time-based preventive or run-to-failure maintenance, sensors collect data which algorithms interpret to produce predictive analytics. AI gives us the capability to operate with condition-based or predictive maintenance, which improves uptime and savings two ways: avoiding unexpected shutdowns and planned shutdowns for maintenance that isn’t needed yet.

ABB is developing advanced products, solutions and services that are radically reshaping the production landscape by making smart and sustainable factories of the future possible. ABB’s portfolio enables manufacturers to respond to the increasing pressure for shorter product design cycles, the rise of mass customisation, and increased environmental, safety and compliance regulations.

Our suite of ABB Ability digital solutions and services uses sensors, network connectivity and data analytics to provide a real-time view into operations, enabling predictive maintenance, improved safety and reduced operating costs. And because ABB Ability uses the Microsoft Azure cloud as its integrated connectivity platform, our customers benefit from access to enterprise grade cloud infrastructure.

Digitalising production processes increases system reliability and throughput, reduces raw material and energy use and improves product quality. For instance, the virtual commissioning of drives and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) can cut project costs significantly while making more efficient use of engineering personnel.

To power the smart factories of the future, ABB offers a wide range of solutions for secure and efficient energy distribution. For example, our cloud platform can connect all of the electrical devices in a facility to the industrial internet, enabling precise information and control functions. Our compact, intelligent circuit breakers deploy integrated connectivity to link smartphones, tablets and PCs with data analysis tools in the ABB Ability suite in real time.

ABB’s solutions for industry, just like its solutions for cities and infrastructure, leverage the latest digital technologies to deliver unprecedented levels of resource efficiency. Our world is a fragile one, with limited resources. These resources must be used sustainably and in a manner that minimises the impact of their use on the environment itself. Intelligent technologies offer the key to protecting the earth while enabling continued economic growth.

David Sullivan is the head of ABB Australia’s Electrification business. He leads a technology portfolio that covers the full electrical value chain from substation to the point of consumption, including ABB’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure. David has more than 20 years’ experience, both locally and internationally, in the electrical supply industry as it relates to utilities, process industries and minerals.

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