Five Minutes With Joerg Theis, global VP, ABB
An interview with Joerg Theis, global vice president, oil, gas and chemicals, ABB.
An Interview with Joerg Theis, global vice president, oil, gas and chemicals, ABB.
Can you explain how important the Middle East region is in your business?
The Middle East has developed as one of the focus areas for our business. For example, when it comes to the recent major projects, the most important one in the region is Sadara. And, ABB is the main automation contractor for this world-class project. Our advantage is that we are able to utilise the vast knowledge that we have gained and the expertise we have developed, from our projects in Europe and US, in the Middle East. We also see lot of new opportunities coming up in the region.
Did low oil prices impact your business in the region?
If we talk about offshore, I would say yes. You have seen a major decline in the investments in the offshore projects in the region. On the other side, we believe that every crisis brings in something good. The positive element that I can see here is the role of innovation. Only those who are into innovation can overcome challenges. We are able to survive in the present crisis because we are continuously into innovations. ABB spends close to US$1.5 billion into R&D every year. When everything is going well, organisations do business as usual. But in a crisis, the possibility is that customers will go in for only those companies, which can offer innovative solutions, which help them overcome their problems. And that is an area in which ABB has excelled.
What we talk about now is performance-based contracts. Companies are discussing on going digital and more integration among functions like automation and electricals to bring in more synergy. These are elements customers never used to discuss few years ago. ABB has a strong footprint in integrating different functions in a plant operation, with more than 70 million connected devices and more than 70,000 installed control systems across the world. That is the world’s largest installed base of connected industrial devices. Utilising this network, we help our customers go further by turning data insights into the direct action that ‘closes the loop’ and generates customer value in the physical world.
What are the latest trends in the Middle Eastern downstream sector?
The most important trend to note is that the region is making a strategic move from commodity petrochemicals to specialty chemicals, which has a huge export market. The downstream industry in the region is aiming beyond refining by focusing on manufacturing high-end, value-added products with huge demand in the market. In the downstream sector, a major development now is creating mega integrated chemical clusters. Another significant trend in the region is the focus on operational excellence. There are also many consolidation moves among the major players in the region. It is also important to note that the region has always been at the forefront in vying for state-of-the-art technologies, and the trend is still continuing. Another important feature of the region is the world-scale plants – while smaller plants are struggling with efficiency and profitability, the mega plants in the region have the flexibility to tide over the current pressures in the global and regional downstream industry.
What are the innovations done by ABB in the region and globally in the last couple of years?
Our main innovation is the integration of electricals. Now, everyone is talking about going digital and consolidating data, and how to optimise production based on all available information. ABB is now working seriously on scalability. For example, look at a customer building a process plant in China and then shipping it completely to the US. This is a completely new concept. So innovations, integration and scalability are the latest trends in the process industry now, in the Middle East as well as globally. And ABB is at the forefront in these initiatives.