ABB, a multinational power and automation engineering business, has been bettering the world via its innovative solutions for more than 125 years. Its history in Australia dates back to the nineteenth century, and since 2010 its operations have been headed up by Managing Director Axel Kuhr (pictured, left). Axel says it has been an interesting journey, navigating the company through an economic downturn and forging a successful path forward.
“When I first arrived in Australia, there was growth in all areas,” he recalls. “We successfully acquired three local companies and integrated another three subsidiaries from global acquisitions. Australia was also very fortunate during the GFC, the event did not have an immediate negative impact on the global demand for its coal, iron ore, and oil and gas resources, nor its pipeline of multi-billion dollar projects. A large proportion of these projects are now being powered, automated, or optimised using ABB technologies.
“Here in Australia our external spend is limited. We source a lot from global ABB factories; however, on the distribution partnership side we have had a few exciting stories. One has been with Brisbane-based start-up Beovista which is working with us in the energy efficiency space. We use their technology with great success in our factories and, when needed, we ramp up supply by creating connections into the ABB network overseas. It’s a win-win situation, based on trust. It shows how innovation happens in Australia, and how local and global can work together very effectively.”
Axel shares a few highlights from his stint as MD of Australia. He says he has enjoyed instilling a positive culture among the workforce, ensuring employees have the correct attitude and approach in their dealings with customers. The ‘It’s up to me’ initiative was introduced to improve the company’s responsiveness to its clients and as a result ABB’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) has increased by more than twenty points over the past four years. “According to NPS experts, realistic and sustainable improvement is characterised by an increase of five points per year, so I am satisfied with this result,” Axel notes.
Working together for work safety
Working safely has also been a core principle. While it’s a given ABB’s operations remain fatality-free, it’s the reduction in incidents in general that Axel is particularly proud of. This has been largely due to the company taking a more personal and individual approach. Employee engagement and training has been central to this, as Axel explains: “We started by inviting a safety ambassador who had lost his leg in a terrible incident to share his experience with over 1,000 of our employees. Individual business units formed their own safety committees with representatives from all hierarchical levels to drive hazard alert and near-miss reporting. Our proactive reporting culture and communication increased, as did the number of safety observation tours conducted in our facilities. The entire organisation is at a different level today, resulting in only one lost working day due to injury in the last two years, making me very proud of the team.”
A new chapter at ABB Japan
This month Axel leaves the Australian operations to begin a new chapter in his career, heading up ABB Japan. He is replaced by the former Managing Director of ABB Finland, Tauno Heinola (pictured, above). Tauno has been with ABB, and its predecessor Stromberg, for thirty-two years, and is excited to take on a fresh challenge with a new culture, organisation, and environment. “Australia offers exciting business challenges and there are growth opportunities in areas such as transportation, renewable energy, and digitalisation,” he shares. “I’m really looking forward to working with customers in these areas. On a personal side, I enjoy the outdoors and am looking forward to experiencing some of the natural beauty of Australia, together with my family.”
In the initial phase of his appointment he says he will take the time to learn about ABB Australia, its key people, and the business environment. His role and main area of focus will be on satisfying the needs of ABB customers across the country by building a positive fighting spirit within the organisation.
“We are seeing digitalisation transforming businesses, and ABB is well positioned to help its customers benefit from this development,” he shares. “ABB is setting the pace for the Internet of Things, Services and People (IoTSP), with offerings across the power and automation spectrum to help people reach the next level of productivity, efficiency, and flexibility. I look forward to exploring this area together with our customers in Australia. I see ABB as a strong leader in the power and automation market across all regions of this country.”