4TH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

Portugal 2019 | ENERGY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Miguel Pernes, Country Managing Director of ABB, on investment in energy, human resources, and the “4th Industrial Revolution."

The presence of ABB in Portugal dates back to 1956. Can you briefly explain its journey?

When I started working for ABB in 1991, it was totally different than what it is today. During the 1990s, the company had around 4,000 employees, and until the end of the decade its main investments were in power generation and the transportation sector, however, due to group divestments in this area. ABB focused more on power transport and distribution, and automation segments, today we are a company of 150 employees with a turnover of USD70 million. ABB's value added is more related to service and engineering as well as the country's efforts regarding power transmission, distribution, and automation.

The company is dealing with Power Grids, Electrification Products, Industrial Automation, and Robotics & Motion. What are the most important projects that ABB is active in Portugal?

Recently, we were awarded a battery storage project that requires an innovative solution. It will be situated on the island of Port Santo, next to Madeira, as one of the first such projects in Europe. It is a battery storage system that will sustain the grid of the island. The project will store energy and regulate the power in the island; the goal of the local government is to make these two islands energy efficient from an environmental point of view. The ultimate goal of this system is to integrate renewables into the grid and make the island a truly green island.

How would you characterize the current investment climate in the energy sector?

We are witnessing a major change, especially due to efforts from Portugal's two main utility providers, REN and EDP, which are also among ABB's top 10 clients in Portugal. These two companies made a huge effort and invested to accommodate the penetration of renewables into the grid. Therefore, the current energy grid is a new grid as a result of their efforts, allowing us to have a secure and dependable network. At the same time, there is a new challenge for grid operators, to manage the penetration of electrical vehicles and the distributed power generation as a result of the residential micro production.

Who are your main clients and partners?

One of our primary clients is Navigator, a pulp and paper company where we have installed a huge base. Similarly, Volkswagen AutoEuropa is our main clients in terms of the robotics area. On the utilities side, we have REN and EDP as well as EEM in Madeira for the Porto Santo project.

What are your human resource requirements in Portugal and how do you keep your existing talent?

ABB has around 150 employees and 50% of those are engineers, service engineers, application engineers, and sales staff. We have a demanding and precise talent management system. One of our most important values is to share and give value back to our employees. ABB is a steady company where the average age of employees is around 40 years old, which means we are a young company. We put a lot of effort and invest on giving training to our employees in all aspects, from technical training to themes related to OHS, Integrity or Finances.

In a global perspective, how would you assess Portuguese innovation vibe?

Portugal is one of the most advanced countries in the power automation segment. We are in the 4th industrial revolution and the world is now talking about digitization, but it's true to say that in Portugal the first steps towards digitization began about 20 years ago. That is why Portuguese engineers are well prepared for modern challenges. Similarly, a lot of small Portuguese companies are developing solutions that are out of the normal trend. From our perspective, we see this as opportunities to become leaders in new developments and innovations.

What are your priorities and goals for the next few years?

The strategy of ABB is clear: profitable growth, relentless execution, and business-led collaboration. The company wants to be present in all the segments and areas of the economy which are related to its portfolio. We want to be the best in the area, promote talent, develop the future, and be ahead with our customers to attend upcoming challenges. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 147,000 employees, and we work in a network and in several developments. Our goal in Portugal is to adapt this group strategy to the local reality. ABB will have an even bigger presence in the automation and digitalization as well as in the new concept of mobility. We also want to be part of this revolution and be ahead in influencing the use of applications and digitalization. We want to continue working on our platform to gather all the technologies and make a common use to attend customer needs.