The future of the water sector will be digital. The transformation it is immersed in requires leading professionals and technology companies to go along that frantic journey. This is where ABB comes in, a historical provider of multiple solutions and products for the water market which is positioning itself as a digital technology leader.
We interview Javier Figueras, industrial engineer, and, since mid 2018, Local Business Line General Manager Industrial Automation at ABB; from this position he is in the front line of the digital transformation of the water sector.
Question: Mr Figueras, a good portion of Smart Water Magazine readers know about your career in the water sector. How did you decide to join ABB?
- Without a doubt, ABB is a historical industry leader, quite attractive for sector professionals, but more specifically, the dimensions of the project and the challenges ahead are very motivating. If I had to choose a word, I would say that this is a very appealing moment: we are involved in a new ABB heading to a digital future, and this applies to our position in the water sector and in other high value ones. ABB is writing the future of digitalisation and the opportunity of participating in this change is very appealing.
Q: As a ballpark figure, how big is ABB?
A: The history of ABB has been linked to innovation for more than 130 years, as a pioneer in power networks, electrification, robotics and motion products, as well as industrial automation to help our industrial clients from the utilities, transport and infrastructure sectors. Also, as a Formula E partner, we are fully involved in pushing the limits of e-mobility to contribute to a sustainable future.
ABB's turnover is about 30,000 billion dollars every year, and we are present in more than 100 countries, but without a doubt the figure we are most proud of is our team, comprising some 147,000 people.
We are involved in a new ABB heading to a digital future, and this applies to our position in the water sector
Q: What is ABB's experience in the water sector? What is the per cent of the total business that corresponds to the water sector?
A: Almost all of our business units or business lines have technology and solutions that apply to the water sector; we are one of the few companies able to provide a water treatment plant with electric infrastructure, drives, automation, process instruments, and even analytics and emissions control.
This, together with our experience with project implementation and the manufacture of products that are unique for the water sector, such as our ACQ580 converters, our Water and Aquamaster water flow meters, and our integrated solution for the Waste Water vertical — where we have developed a simple and user-friendly platform to provide the waste water treatment plant a solution for instant control and integration of process equipment — make up our expertise in the water sector.
And then again, there's our staff. ABB has an extensive team of engineers specialised in the manufacture and implementation of technology solutions for the sector in the more than 100 countries where we are present.
In fact, our water market focus shows in the annual publication of the ABB Global Water Meter Report, where our global experts discuss the trends in our sector, and, for example, specific websites within our global website such as the one on water sector instrumentation.
We are part of the water sector and manufacture for the water sector.
Q: What are ABB's most emblematic projects in water management?
A: Our experience is decades old, and therefore, there are multiple project references, but we can mention some emblematic projects where we were involved to a great extent, such as the Fujairah, Magtaa, Shuaibah III and Quindao desalination plants, and the El Tbeen, El Fostat and Tianjin water treatment plants, among others. We have been able to monitor ultra-precisely the water flows, improving the efficiency and facilitating the detection of leaks, resulting in drastic NRW reduction in a city which is growing exponentially.
Almost all of our business units or business lines have technology and solutions that apply to the water sector
Q: What is ABB's involvement in the water management sector in Spain? In which Latin American countries is it more active in?
A: In Spain we have replicated this international model successfully, trying to apply our knowledge and technology to our clients. In fact, nearly all the main public and private operators use drives, control systems and process instrumentation by ABB. Actually, we are now involved in a project focusing on our main water clients: our intention is to increase our presence even more.
In Latin America we have an important presence as well: we have offices in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, etc.
Q: Without a doubt, ABB is an international technology leader. How can it help water managers with their digital transformation?
A: Indeed, a large portion of the specific solutions we have developed and are developing for the sector focus on digitalisation.
With our integrated ABB Ability™ platform, we consolidate our cross-industry digital offering, encompassing from the instrument to the cloud, with instruments, systems, solutions, services, and a unique platform that enables our clients to gain more insight about their projects, to do more and do it better.
Nearly all the main public and private operators use control systems and process instrumentation by ABB
Q: What technologies will set trends in water resource management?
A: Unquestionably, all the technologies that simplify operations and favour the digitalisation of assets and operations. That is, sensors and instruments, drives and control platforms that help operators and their clients to gain insight and manage efficiently their facilities, as well as to implement predictive maintenance and remote management of their facilities.
Q: What is the relevance of automation and process instrumentation in water management 4.0?
A: Related to my earlier comment, it is not possible to move forward towards digitalisation without appropriate instruments, able to measure data efficiently and reliably, and also to share and allow the control system to interpret and configure the plant autonomously.
Therefore, integrated automation and instrumentation systems are crucial. We should not separate them, for ABB instrumentation and control are part of the same thing.
Our company and our different business lines have been involved in the water sector for decades
Q: What do you expect ABB's position in the water sector to be 10 years from now?
A: Our company and our different business lines have been involved in the water sector for decades, but we see with renewed enthusiasm the shift of the sector towards a perfect fit with our vision and technologies.
Hence, I am sure we will play, the same as up to now, a leading role in the digital transformation into something real, practical and efficient in the water sector. We are ready for it.