POWER PLAYS

Dubai 2018 | ENERGY & INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Frank Ackland, CEO of Eaton Middle East, on its operations in Dubai, prioritizing safety in construction, and innovations in the sector.

 Frank Ackland
BIOGRAPHY
Prior to his current position, Frank Ackland was Regional Executive and General Manager for GE Digital Energy in the Middle East & Africa. Ackland began his career in 1982 with GEC in the UK. He moved to the Middle East for the first time in 1998 as regional director for Alstom, becoming the Regional Vice President for Automation. In 2006, Ackland returned to Europe as Regional Vice President and Managing Director for Northern Europe, later assuming the position of Commercial Vice President of Global Operations. Ackland returned to the Middle East in 2009 to take up the role of Regional Managing Director for Alstom Grid Automation Business for the Middle East, India and Eastern Europe before joining GE in 2010. Ackland has an HNC in electrical engineering from Staffordshire University, UK, and an MBA from the University of Derby, UK.

How have your operations evolved to gain brand recognition in the Middle East?

Eaton has been in the Middle East for 40 years. We had our first office in Dubai in the World Trade Center, and over the past 20 years we have grown significantly through a number of acquisitions that expanded our installed bases capacity. In 2013 we decided to double our investments in the region, setting up a manufacturing facility in Dubai to get closer to our clients. This process has led us to an approach that establishes support mechanisms for our customers through more tailored solutions, and the growth of Dubai as an Emirate has undoubtedly favored our operations. Indeed, Dubai acts pretty much as the regional benchmark: once we establish a relationship with a Dubai partner, it is then easier to engage in its counterpart somewhere else in the region. This has been the case with Dubai Civil Defense, for example with which we have established a great working relationship in our Life Safety Division.

What is the level of security and standardization of power equipment plays within commercial construction in the region?

Bringing safety to the construction market, whether that is in hospitals, houses, offices, or other buildings, remains a key priority for Eaton. One of the key challenges in the region is ensuring the equipment specifications meet the right standards to deliver high-level solutions to a different number of stakeholders. Counterfeit products sold at cheaper prices is another issue our industry always had to deal with, but safety should not come at any compromise. Eaton has more than 10,000 patents and we are constantly working to develop or evolve products in order to meet specific market needs and safety requirements. However, there has been growing awareness in the market around the importance of security of the generation system, which has allowed for greater innovation in certain niche areas. For example, we have been able to upgrade evacuation processes both in terms of emergency lightning and fire detection, making the whole system dynamic through the implementation of technology. Another example is the introduction of the arc flash detecting system.

What is your assessment on the wave of investments in data centers the region is witnessing?

Investments in data centers, especially in the technology for data protection, is becoming increasingly important in the region, whether it is the server present in buildings or all the way to big colocation sites. As such, Eaton is proud to supply all the protective equipment and UPS for the Gulf Data Hub, one of the first large data colocation center in the region. Safety and security are absolutely paramount for companies to build strong, well-tested, reliable foundations, both in hardware and software. This enhanced connectivity and higher amount of data presents companies and governments with huge potential, but people need to understand what it actually means. It all boils down to the intelligence of the network, and how we can take the data, turn it into really usable information that people can make decisions on. There are big steps being made in this direction, and it is an exciting time overall.

Can you walk us through the changes innovation brings to the region's utilities market?

The structure of the current network system in the Middle East dates back to the 1970s and 1980s, which calls for major equipment upgrade and substitution to prevent issues with transformers, oil insulated switchgears, and so on. Since all major cities in the region are witnessing infrastructure growth, new built is often required, though the typical utility model based on power stations connected to substations through endless transmission lines is coming to an end. Today, the utility space is becoming more fragmented, with a more localized grid. Europe is already undergoing this shift, and the Middle East is starting to see it right now. There will be a massive change in the way utilities are operated.