By Gregory Hale
Here we are living in the present and planning for the future and the digital world is staring the manufacturing automation sector square in the eye. Benefits abound, productivity gains can be rampant and connectivity is as abundant and plentiful as a Sunday spaghetti dinner at momma’s house.

But make no mistake about it, security is the backbone that enables and protects the entire enterprise.

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“The world is changing and ABB is riding the future and we are shaping the next phase in the world in a positive way,” said Ulrich Spiesshofer, chief executive at ABB during his keynote address at ABB Customer World in Houston, Texas, Tuesday. When we look at a fast changing world we must change again to stay in the forefront of the industry.”

Spiesshofer talked about three actions ABB is looking at moving forward:
1. Focus on digital industries through divestment of power grids
2. Simplify our business model and structure
3. Shape four leading businesses

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The goal, Spiesshofer said, is to simplify the company and put resources in the right place and put the company under four business leaders. “There will be better customer focus, higher speed and less interfaces.”

The four business lines Spiesshofer mentioned are:
• Electrification
• Industrial automation
• Motion
• Robotics and discrete automation

In terms of the robotics area, Spiesshofer showed a video of an ABB robot conducting an orchestra.

“It is impossible people would have said 10 years ago having a robot conduct an orchestra, but we did it,” he said. “Technology is amazing and artificial intelligence (AI) is an amazing thing. I never thought a robot could learn to conduct an orchestra in 17 hours.”

Bringing collaborative robots and humans together will allow ABB to help drive a more competitive environment in the U.S.

“The U.S. still only has 40,000 installed robots, so there’s a big opportunity to have them help with reshoring and bringing manufacturing back to the Americas,” Spiesshofer said.

Part of the ABB growth plan is partnering with leading players like Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).

“Everything is being connected and everything is being digitized,” said Antonio Neri, president and chief executive at HPE during his keynote. “As I became CEO at HPE a year ago, we asked what are we doing and where are we going. Everything we do has a consequence and we want to make sure the consequence is good. We want to solve society’s problems and business problmes for the good.”

Part of the partnership with ABB means the two companies can learn and grow together.

“The world is changing and the way we develop solutions is changing as well. In my house, I have over 200 devices connected. They have to be secure and intelligence is everywhere.”

One of the issues companies are facing is 75 percent of data is at the edge, he said, but only 6 percent of data is being utilized.

“People who can act with speed and agility around the data will be the winners,” Neri said. “Customers want to advance their business. We need to drive an architecture that is edge to cloud. That connectivity needs to be secure. The enterprise of the future is evolving: Edge centric, cloud enabled, data driven.”

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