Information technology is changing the world at an accelerating rate. The pulp and paper industry is just one example of a sector in which more and more functions are being entrusted to electronic devices. For companies that supply industrial users this has created a situation in which they no longer offer hardware, but also a lot of knowledge.
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ABB Industry, until recently best-known as a supplier of machines and equipment to the forest products sector, is nowadays a growing force in automation. Systems designed by ABB enable customers to obtain data on both production processes and the factory's internal administrative systems. This helps customers' operate their processes with optimal efficiency.
"It is not enough in today's world for us to produce only motors, AC inverters and services. We have harnessed all the expertise at our disposal to be able to give customers added value. Only a supplier able to help streamline its customers' processes is likely to attract interest. Information technology can do a lot to optimise operations, increase productivity, cut costs and at the end of the day increase the customer's shareholder value," says Lasse Mäkelin, who heads ABB Industry's Systems Group.
Of the 160,000 ABB employees world-wide, nearly two-thirds are already plugged into a real-time network which serves as a support system for decision making. This enables people everywhere from the executive suite to the factory floor to check how their decisions and actions influence the totality.
Technologies that once functioned only on their own can now be combined with others. "Many of our basic products, such as paper machine controls, have incorporated various kinds of software applications for a long time and we are now examining how we can make greater use of these new technological aids to make customers' operations more efficient", says Lasse Mäkelin.
He predicts that shared technology will tear down the fences that have divided traditional automation systems from those that guide business functions. "Cost-effectiveness and operational efficiency will improve markedly when both can use similar elements to combine data concerning hardware, software, techniques, spare parts, project management, training and services."
More, faster, better
One of the benefits of the Internet is the opportunity to purchase more cost-effectively. Suppliers can provide customers with more and better information on products and services, and they can do so faster. For example, ABB has been selling spare parts via the Internet for several years. Lasse Mäkelin points out that the Internet's role in determining the ways business is done today is steadily growing.
The pulp and paper industry is one of the most capital-intensive in the world. A strategic value partnership with suppliers helps the industry improve many of its functions.
Industrial IT systems designed by ABB embrace the totality of a company's operations. They put precise data on processes, other functions, customers and markets at the company's fingertips. The data are thorough and quickly available. This in turn enables customers to make more accurate decisions faster. The end-result is optimal efficiency in every function to do with human resources, processes, raw materials and infrastructure in general.