Business divisions

Industry background

Our five divisions operate across two key markets: power and automation. Our divisions serve these markets through a global production, engineering and service base. The markets and our divisions are discussed in more detail below. Revenue figures presented in this Business divisions section are before interdivisional eliminations.

Power market

We serve the power market with products, systems and services designed primarily to deliver electricity. Electricity is generated in power stations of various types, including thermal, wind, solar and hydro plants and is then fed into an electricity grid, transmitted and distributed to consumers. Transmission systems link power generation sources to distribution systems, often over long distances. Distribution systems then branch out over shorter distances to carry electricity to end users. These electricity networks incorporate sophisticated devices to transmit electricity, control and monitor the power flow and ensure efficiency, reliability, quality and safety.

The primary demand driver in the power market is the growing need for reliable electricity supplies to support economic growth and address the global environmental challenge. This is also driving increased demand for renewable energy and high-efficiency power systems and equipment. Additional drivers vary by region. Capacity addition across the power value chain is the key market driver in emerging markets mainly in Asia, Middle East, South America and Africa. In North America, the focus is on upgrading and replacing aging infrastructure, improving grid reliability and enabling smarter power networks. In Europe, the focus is on upgrading the power infrastructure, integrating renewable energy sources such as wind power, and building interconnections to allow more efficient use of power and energy trading.

Furthermore, as new power sources and loads are added, there is a need for grids and power networks to become more flexible, reliable and smarter. Power quality, stability and security of supply become key priorities. These requirements stimulate the need for power products and system solutions from generation through transmission and distribution. These demands are met by our two power divisions that together offer customers a comprehensive portfolio to help them become more competitive while lowering environmental impact.

Automation market

The automation market uses products, systems and services designed primarily to improve product quality, energy efficiency and productivity in industrial and manufacturing applications. The automation market can be divided into three sectors:

  • Process automation refers to measurement, control, electrification and other applications used in processes where the main objective is continuous production, such as in the oil and gas, power, chemicals, mining, metals, and pulp and paper industries. Product lines for this market include plant electrification, instrumentation, analytical measurement, and control products and systems, as well as motors and drives.
  • Factory automation refers to discrete operations that manufacture individual items in applications such as foundry, metal fabrication, packaging, welding and painting. Typical industries where factory automation is used include automotive, consumer electronics and food and beverage. Product lines for this market include robots and application equipment, product and system services and modular manufacturing solutions, control products and systems, as well as motors, drives, and low-voltage products for control and power applications.
  • Building automation comprises product lines and applications aimed at improving the energy efficiency of buildings through automated control of indoor climate, lighting and security. Product lines for this market include a wide range of low-voltage products.

Power Products division

Our Power Products division primarily serves electric, gas and water utilities as well as industrial and commercial customers, with a vast portfolio of products and services across a wide voltage range to facilitate power generation, transmission and distribution. Direct sales account for a majority of the division’s total revenues, and sales through external channel partners, such as wholesalers, distributors and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), account for the rest. Key technologies include high- and medium-voltage switchgear, circuit breakers for a range of current ratings and voltage levels, power, distribution, traction and other special transformers, as well as products to help control and protect electrical networks. The division had approximately 35,800 employees as of December 31, 2012, and generated $10.7 billion of revenues in 2012.

Power Systems division

Our Power Systems division serves utilities, as well as industrial and commercial customers with system solutions and services for the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. Turnkey solutions include power plant electrification and automation, bulk power transmission, substations and network management. The division had approximately 20,200 employees as of December 31, 2012, and generated $7.9 billion of revenues in 2012.

Discrete Automation and Motion division

The Discrete Automation and Motion division offers a wide range of products and services including drives, motors, generators, power electronics systems, rectifiers, power quality and power protection products, converters, photovoltaic inverters, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), and robots. These products help customers to improve productivity, save energy, improve quality and generate energy. Key applications include energy conversion, data processing, actuation, automation, standardized manufacturing cells for applications such as machine tending, welding, cutting, painting, finishing, palletizing and packing, and engineered systems for the automotive industry. The majority of these applications are for industrial applications, with others provided for buildings, transportation and utilities. The division also provides a full range of life-cycle services, from product and system maintenance to system design, including energy appraisals and preventive maintenance services.

Revenues are generated both from direct sales to end users as well as from indirect sales through distributors, machine builders and OEMs, system integrators, and panel builders.

In 2012, the Discrete Automation and Motion division expanded its offering and geographic scope with several acquisitions, including Newave Energy Holding SA (Newave), a Switzerland-based leader in uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

The Discrete Automation and Motion division had approximately 29,300 employees as of December 31, 2012, and generated $9.4 billion of revenues in 2012.

Low Voltage Products division

The Low Voltage Products division helps customers to improve productivity, save energy and increase safety. The division offers a wide range of products and systems, with related services, that provide protection, control and measurement for electrical installations, enclosures, switchboards, electronics and electromechanical devices for industrial machines and plants. The main applications are in industry, building, infrastructures, rail and sustainable transportation, renewable energies and e-mobility applications.

In May 2012, the Low Voltage Products division expanded its product offering and geographic scope through the acquisition of Thomas & Betts Corporation (Thomas & Betts), a North American leader in low-voltage products. The acquisition supports ABB’s strategy to strengthen its position in the North American low-voltage market.

The Low Voltage Products division had approximately 30,800 employees as of December 31, 2012, and generated $6.6 billion of revenues in 2012.

A majority of the division’s revenues comes from sales through distributors, wholesalers, OEMs, system integrators, and panel builders, although a portion of the division’s revenues comes from direct sales to end users and utilities.

Process Automation division

The Process Automation division provides products, systems, and services for the automation and electrification of industrial processes. Our core industries are cement, paper, metals, mining, oil, gas, petrochemicals, chemicals and marine. Each industry has unique business drivers, yet share common requirements for operational productivity, safety, energy efficiency, minimized project risk and environment compliance. The division’s core competence is the application of automation and electrification technologies to solve these generic requirements, but tailored to the characteristics of each of its core industries. The division is organized around industry and product business along with a specialized business focusing on performance-based outsourced maintenance contracts. The division had approximately 28,000 employees as of December 31, 2012, and generated revenues of $8.2 billion in 2012.

The Process Automation division offering is made available as separately sold products or as part of a total automation system. The division’s technologies are sold both through direct sales forces and third-party channels.

Corporate and Other

Corporate and Other comprises corporate headquarters and stewardship, corporate research and development, corporate real estate, equity investments, as well as other activities.

Corporate headquarters and stewardship activities include the operations of our corporate headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, as well as corresponding subsidiary operations in various countries. These activities cover staff functions with group-wide responsibilities, such as accounting and financial reporting, corporate finance and taxes, planning and controlling, internal audit, legal affairs and compliance, risk management and insurance, corporate communications, information systems, investor relations and human resources.

Corporate research and development primarily covers our research activities, as our development activities are organized under the five business divisions. We have two global research laboratories, one focused on power technologies and the other focused on automation technologies, which both work on technologies relevant to the future of our five business divisions. Each laboratory works on new and emerging technologies and collaborates with universities and other external partners to support our divisions in advancing relevant technologies and in developing cross-divisional technology platforms. We have research operations in eight countries, which consist of the United States of America (United States), Sweden, Switzerland, Poland, China, Germany, Norway and India.

Corporate and Other had approximately 2,000 employees at December 31, 2012.