By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Olivier Coquerel, President and Country Managing Director of ABB Philippines, has seen most of it all in making things more efficient, safer and faster through the Internet of things, automation, and digital transformation.
Coquerel, who likens the Philippines as a paradise as he dives in the country’s best diving spots, sees ABB’s role in paving a path for the Philippines catch-up and be in the league of the digital world with the help of its diverse product portfolio.
ABB is the product of many acquisitions and mergers, but primarily, it was further strengthened in the 1988 coming together of ASEA and BBC, formerly known as Brown Boveri, two of the proudest and best known names in European electrical engineering history. It is now one of the world’s leading power and automation technology firms.
ABB planted its roots in the Philippines on July 28, 1968, and since then, has contributed significantly to the country’s various electrification and transformation efforts.
Its diverse product portfolio, which has always been aimed at driving operational productivity in utilities, transportation and infrastructure, and industries, has allowed ABB to work with large-scale organizations.
According to Coquerel, ABB has been growing well in the Philippines, posting a sustainable double-digit growth, which is faster than the 6-7 percent gross domestic product of the country.
The growth indicates the company’s robust business despite the presence of competitors from other European firms and other suppliers of transformers from Asia particularly Japan and the aggressive Chinese brands.
Clients though are investing in top brands because their products are a critical piece of equipment for the supply of stable electricity.
He cited two main reasons for their bullish business outlook in the country: the government’s drive for infrastructure build-up and the 105 million Philippine population. “This is a large country with rising consumer demand,” he adds.
“You can see projects being implemented and the willingness to build more airports and roads which are fantastic,” says Coquerel as he cited all new roads going to Subic which are even better than the first world country, including France.
Aside from the power business, ABB is building a synergy in all of its products towards the more efficient automation and digital systems in industries they are presently engage in from power, food and beverage, water, petrochemicals, steel, electronics and semiconductor.
“There are different industries and some are growing very fast and trying to have a good level of automation,” says Coquerel.
For instance, they are working with water and steel companies to automate their systems to reduce their electricity consumption as these are all power intensive firms
The ABB automation systems are known to be the most cost efficient and provides the best quality results.
Coquerel, who has been with ABB for 18 long years of which 17 years were spent with the robotics division and has worked in Australia and China, noted that the level of automation in the Philippines is still very low.
“I would say there are lots of things to do like in the food and beverage industry, lots of manpower tasks that should not be done manually like lifting bags of over 20 kilos because that is not good for people anymore but which can be done by robots. So, there is a need to install robots and move the workers to more skilled jobs,” he adds.
One reason for automation is to cope up with huge production volume. Companies operating on three shifts are now employing more robots for efficiency. Most of all, automation means lesser costs and higher savings resulting in better profitability.
ABB is now working in the food and beverage industry. It is now helping a dried mango producer in Cebu automate its operation.
ABB alone has 201 solutions based on digital. These means their products are now equipped with sensors to provide accurate information that can be used to make products more reliable or better service.
“We think the future is in the digital area,” says Coquerel.
For example, robotics can diagnose from a distance a particular equipment. ABB can remotely diagnose 80 percent of their systems while it has a team of people on standby for deployment on site to put production back online quicker.
“The digital offering is all about providing value to customers, but at end of the day it is the value we bring to customers,” says Coquerel.
This is the very reason that ABB has only partnered with the best software companies such as Microsoft, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard “to ensure the integrity of information and data are transmitted securely.”
“What sets ABB apart is its diverse and all-inclusive portfolio, which has been aptly named as ABB Ability. We have always been known as a pioneering technology leader in digital technologies – ABB Ability brings together all our digital offerings as one strong and unified offer,” he adds.
It has over 210 various digitally-connected devices, systems, and digital-enabling services, utilizing an open and globally available digital-industrial ecosystem powered by Microsoft Azure.
“ABB Ability is our way of harnessing the power of digital to drive progress with our customers every day. Our products and systems connect our customers to the power of the Industrial Internet of Things and, through our services and expertise, goes further by turning data insights into the direct action that ‘closes the loop’ and generates customer value in the physical world,” says Coquerel.
Currently, ABB has the largest installed base of 70 million digitally enabled devices, 70,000 digital control systems, and 6,000 enterprise software solutions.
With innovation and digital transformation at the forefront of its initiatives, ABB envisions to become actively par of the transformation of smart cities, including in the Philippines.
“This is why we continue to actively engage our customers, which span the utilities, transportation and infrastructure, and industry segments, to introduce to them our ABB Ability portfolio, composed of our intelligent products and systems,” says Coquerel.
ABB is keen to help towards alleviating urban areas into smart cities to improve connectivity and make city life seamless from hotels, transport to airports.
ABB has a wide range of products for smart buildings in the installation of sensors to control usage of lights and air-conditioning in hotels or even in individual households.
For instance, ABB’s systems enable one to turn on the air-conditioning system remotely like 30 minutes before arrival. Hotel lights can be dimmed if there are no guests and open more lights depending on need basis with the use of sensors.
“Imagine if we can multiply all the power savings then that is better for the environment, there is no need for companies to use so much electricity,” he adds.
“We think the future is in the digital area,” says Coquerel. ABB alone has 201 solutions based on digital. This means their products are now equipped with sensors to provide accurate information that can be used to make products more reliable and provide better service.
The Internet of things can talk to each other that if something is going wrong it can signal for possible breakdown that can be detected and prevented.
In the Philippines, ABB is positioning for prospects in making Clark a smart city.
“People will still play a key role in the new age of industrial production. The Internet can be used to integrate information from machines, services and users and process it into a format that can be easily and automatically utilized. People can then use this information to program and control operations and make decisions to optimize the quality, safety, efficiency and environmental aspects of production,” says Coquerel.
Automation has already changed the role of people in industry. Work is less physically demanding, as automation and robots have come to replace human effort in strenuous and dangerous tasks, and human responsibility now lies more in expert knowledge work and process control.
Coquerel started with ABB in France, got assigned to Australia and then to China before coming to the Philippines although he first worked in Brazil before joining ABB.
He, however, has been well acquainted with the Philippines because he has been coming over as a diver prior to his appointment as leader for the Manila unit.
“As a diver, the Philippines is a paradise. But first of all, I like the country for its diversity and thousands of islands that when you go in other parts there are different people and landscape,” he observes as he cited the country’s best dive spots including Palawan, Malapascua, and Apo Island.
Most of all, Coquerel likes Filipinos for their being very kind and family-oriented. “Filipinos are always nice and smiling and I am trying to be as smiling also. Among all my experiences, Filipinos are the happiest people. They look happy even if sad things happen,” he says.
But there are more to be happy about in the Philippines, nowadays. Coquerel cited the improving economy with GDP growing at 6.7 percent.
Compared to France, he said, “We like good things in life, we like to complain and go on strike, but here people have more positive attitude. That’s what I like, everything is positive and lots of young people with lots of energy and that give us also reason to be upbeat,” says Coquerel, who moves here with his wife and two daughters barely a year ago.
He is going back to playing golf again after stopping when he was assigned in China where golf plays are very expensive. But here, the entire family is now playing golf. He also loves the local cuisine, particularly Kare-Kare, garlic rice, chicken adobo and fish tanigue.
ABB always gives back to society. They created an ABB Global Village in a small village in E.B. Magalona, a small fishing village in Negros Occidental, which was destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda. They tied up with Gawad Kalinga in selecting the beneficiaries of ABB’s funds.
ABB provides the funds to create a sustainable village where houses are made of concrete, with water and electricity. ABB also donated fishing boats for livelihood projects.
“It was very emotional moment,” says Coquerel as he listened to the outpouring of gratitude shared by the beneficiaries who lost not just material things but loved ones.
“The values of ABB are what I found anywhere I go in any country we have the same mindset,” says Coquerel.
On top of that, Coquerel cited ABB as a very ethical leader, a basic value the company holds dear.
In addition, ABB is in the forefront of innovation. It employs as many as 5,000 scientists to develop new technologies and there are also Filipino innovations that contribute to its global execution team. There are 140 direct ABB employees in the Philippines and is growing.
ABB also cares for the professional growth of its people. “There are lots of opportunities for growth, like myself I was offered to go to other countries and I was given the chance to do other things, so we keep on learning,” he adds.
“On a personal level, I stayed with ABB because of its customer focus, innovation, and commitment to quality – values that I personally put a premium on.”
At ABB, he learned that successful programs are not built on fads but rather, on trends. ABB has a strong history of innovation, spanning more than 130 years.
“Its longevity in the industry, its strong market position, together with the continuous transformation of its portfolio to anticipate and meet the demands of customers, speaks of its ability to transform trends into profitable growth, as well as its unwavering commitment to be a respected technology leader,” he points out.
Also, Coquerel is proud that ABB chooses to be a pioneer in all the segments that it operates in – power grids, electrification products, industrial automation, and robotics – with the commendable purpose of increasing energy efficiency, reliability, and productivity of its customer.
As a leader, Coquerel manages his people like a coach. He does not micro manage but he makes sure that his people understand the company’s objective so they can contribute on how to achieve these goals.
When people come up with solutions, he said, they can implement the project better because they can claim ownership to these initiatives.
“But everyone is different so I take into account the different cultures because what might work in China will not work in the Philippine so I try to go lower to get feedback from everyone,” says Coquerel, who tries to be as friendly as possible but firm on his expectations.
While ABB has been successful here for the past 50 years, he envisions a more relevant company for the Philippines.
“So, the vision is to move ABB from being a hardware focus and into software and digital-minded by using digital solutions,” he says.
Certainly, ABB will continue to stay in the integrity path, respect its employees and customers while introducing more technology as a leader in the region.
“We pride ourselves for contributing in the continuing electrification of the country, both through traditional and renewable energy sources, and the continuous empowerment of power utilities and industries. We also take pride as an organization that places a premium on innovation, and in being a pioneering technology leader, it is – and will always be – ABB’s objective to bring electricity from any power plant to plug, and to automate industries from natural resources to finished products,” says Coquerel.