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By Gregory Hale
It has become abundantly clear cyber security is now a vital area for any manufacturing automation company moving forward.

“We are now aware of what has been going on under our noses for years,” said Joe Hogan, chief executive of ABB Ltd. during his keynote address Tuesday at ABB Automation and Power World in Orlando, FL. “We have to bring systems together.”

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Hogan was talking about some trends occurring in the industry and cyber security was one that stuck out. He also talked about the potential growth and strength the North American market is showing after a period of downtime.

“We are optimistic that this is a great place to be and we remain optimistic on its growth potential,” Hogan said. “I am more optimistic about the North American market than I have been in years.”

Cyber Security

Enrique Santacana agrees. The North American president and chief executive of ABB said during his talk that he remains very bullish on what the region has to offer. After showing some of the downsides or what he called “headwinds,” Santacana also gave the upside, or “tailwinds.”

He said some of the “headwinds” deal with China, which continues to experience slow growth. “We need a healthy China to continue our growth.”

In addition, he said Europe is still in recession with high unemployment and the Middle East remains unstable.

Then he talked about the U.S. “What can we say about the U.S.?” Santacana said.

The sequester is in full force, there is a potential government shutdown, the debt ceiling debate, regulation overload, persistent high unemployment and the monetary policy. All areas that have the potential to burst the U.S.’s economic bubble at any point.

“It is like a bad movie that you see over and over again. It is like ‘Ground Hog Day,’” he said. He then went on to talk about the disappointment in just how the government is (or is not) working to help alleviate the problems. “It is a sad story when politicians cannot change.”

Hogan added while Washington may be in disarray, there are states out there that are promoting and ensuring growth.

Santacana agreed saying while it is easy to dwell on the negatives, there is a bright future for the industry. “Here in North America we have strong and healthy tailwinds,” he said.

“The housing sector is getting stronger and is enjoying a renaissance,” Santacana said. He also added manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, all requiring productivity, automation and energy efficiency, are continuing to grow, which plays right into ABB’s power and automation hand.

Yes, the economy is far from perfect and yes there are some strong detriments working against it, but there are also policies and plans and place to force the country to move forward in a positive manner.

“There is short term uncertainty facing our business,” he said. “We will need to proceed with caution.”

The growth of technologies and automation in general are also spurring some of the growth of the North American market.

Automation opportunities that didn’t appear 10 years ago are now possibilities, Hogan said. That is where one of the pillars of ABB’s future comes into play: Disruptive opportunities. “These are opportunities that change the fundamentals of the marketplace. There used to be islands of automation out there, but if you put technology over the top you are able to see things, anticipate things and optimize.”

“It is a rebirth time in North America,” Hogan said.

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