Careers at ABB
ABB’s mission is to help its customers use electrical power efficiently, increase industrial productivity, and lower environmental impact in a sustainable way.
ABB is a provider of power and automation technologies. The company operates four reportable business segments:
- Discrete Automation and Motion – Provides low-voltage and medium-voltage drive products and systems for residential, commercial, and industrial applications. Specific products include variable-speed drives, motion control solutions, motors, generators, power electronics systems, and rectifiers.
- Process Automation – Provides fully-engineered solutions, products and services for process control, safety, instrumentation, plant electrification, and energy management for the key process industry sectors of chemical, oil and gas, marine, mining, minerals, metals, cement, and pulp and paper.
- Electrification Products – Provides medium-voltage products as well as breakers and switches, control products, building products, low-voltage systems, and Thomas & Betts activities.
- Power Grids – Provides power and automation solutions for transmission and distribution delivered from a single source. It comprises ABB’s AC grid, DC grid, and grid automation activities, as well as the company’s transformer and high-voltage product businesses.
Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget (ASEA) was founded in Sweden in 1883. The company played a major role in introducing electricity into local homes and businesses, and later expanded into the mining, steel, and power industries. Its competitor BBC Brown Boveri was founded in Switzerland in 1891 and was engaged with power generation and electrical engineering activities.
At a certain point the two rivals decided that creating a joint venture would make financial sense. Specifically, they could reduce costs by combining their R&D efforts in the areas of high-voltage chips, superconductors, and power plant control systems. Furthermore, ASEA’s strong presence in northern Europe could complement BBC’s strength in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and West Germany.
In 1988 they carried out the task, merging their assets for shares in a new firm - ABB Asea Brown Boveri Ltd. - to be owned equally by each parent. Their first task was integration. This was followed by a reorganization of existing operations through decentralization and downsizing. The firm then proceeded to acquire numerous competitors in the U.S. and Western Europe.
The next decade saw several milestones. The company gained a foothold in the North America by forming a joint venture with electrical company Westinghouse, which it later bought out. It also expanded to Eastern Europe, setting up 60 companies by 1995, and to Asia. In 1996, a reorganization took place in which the firm became a holding company for its former parents – one called ABB, Ltd.
Benefits at ABB
Business model of ABB
ABB has a niche market business model, with a specialized customer segment. The company targets its offerings at utilities, industry, and transport/infrastructure customers.
ABB offers two primary value propositions: innovation and brand/status.
The company has embraced innovation throughout its history. It pioneered HVDC technology over 60 years ago and maintains in-house manufacturing capability for key HVDC elements. It also introduced the world’s first power-from-shore solution for an offshore rig. In 2015, it unveiled YuMi, the world’s first dual-arm robot that can work collaboratively with humans while ensuring their safety.
The company has established a strong brand as a result of its success. It bills itself as the world’s largest supplier of transformers and industrial electric motors and drives, as well as a leader in high-voltage products and substation solutions. It operates in approximately 100 countries and ships more than one million products daily. Lastly, it has won many honors, including recognition as the most valuable B2B brand in Switzerland by Interbrand (2014), one of the world’s top 100 innovators in 2013 by Thomson Reuters, and placement on MIT‘s 2013 list of “50 Disruptive Firms“.
ABB’s main channel is its direct sales team; the company also acquires customers through distributors, system integrators, machine and panel builders, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The company promotes its offering through its website, social media pages, seminars, workshops, exhibitions, and conferences.
ABB’s customer relationship is primarily of a self-service nature. Customers utilize its products while having limited interaction with employees. The company’s website includes a number of self-help resources, including white papers, case studies, videos, and answers to frequently asked questions. That said, there is also a personal assistance component in the form of phone and e-mail support, and a community element in the form of forums where customers can connect.
ABB’s business model entails designing, developing, and manufacturing its products for customers.
ABB has “Authorized Value Partners”, who include the following groups:
- System Integrators – Primarily offer software and hardware integration
- Channel Distributors – Primarily engage in license sales and services
- Channel Resellers – Primarily engage in license sales
- Service Providers – Primarily offer consulting and implementation services
- Solution Providers – Primarily offer product solutions
- Technology Partners – Primarily offer technology services
Benefits for these partners include training and certification; access to various tools, knowledge bases, and resource libraries; and sales, technical, and product support. Specific partners include B&D Technologies, Malloy Electric, APDS Limited, Gibbons Engineering Group, and Halcyon Drives.
ABB also collaborates with universities to develop mid- to short-term evolutionary innovations for its products and services, as well as disruptive long-term technologies. It partners with over 70 institutions worldwide, including Carnegie Mellon University, University of Zurich, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge University, North Carolina State University, and EPFL Lausanne.
ABB’s main resource is its group of 8,500 “technologists” (scientists and engineers) who design and develop its products. The experts operate out of nine corporate research centers in seven countries – China, India, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. The company also places a high priority on its intellectual property, with 25,900 patent applications/registrations, 7,700 of which are pending applications, and over 3,500 utility model and design applications/registrations.
ABB has a cost-driven structure, aiming to minimize expenses through significant automation and low-price value propositions. Its biggest cost driver is cost of sales, a variable expense which primarily consists of labor, component, and raw material costs. Other major drivers are in the areas of administration and research/development, both fixed costs.
ABB has three revenue streams: revenues generated from the sale of products, the sale of services (e.g., installation, maintenance, field service), and the sale of software licenses.
info: Ulrich earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration and Engineering and a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Stuttgart. He previously served as Head of Corporate Development and Head of the Discrete Automation and Motion unit at ABB.
info: Eric earned degrees in Business Administration and International Finance at the Stockholm School of Economics. He previously served as Head of Global Group Processes and as Division CFO of the Discrete Automation and Motion unit at ABB.
info: Jean-Christophe earned a Master’s degree in Law at the University of Fribourg. He previously served as Chief HR and Organization Officer of Carrefour Group and as President and CEO of Downstream Aluminum Businesses at Rio Tinto.
info: Diane earned D.E.A. degrees in Business Law and International Law at Paris Law School. She previously served as Senior VP and General Counsel of Airbus Group and VP & General Counsel of SCA Hygiene Products.
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