HiQ has been the development and maintenance partner of ABB’s Drives units for over ten years. The long-standing and evolving partnership has resulted in a customised Harvester sales configurator to support the units’ global quote-order-delivery process. It is a business-critical system used daily in more than 80 sales and production units around the world.
ABB’s AC drives are used in a wide range of applications, from buildings to mines, ships, wind power, and manufacturing plants. AC drives control the rotational speed of electric motors; adjustments to rotational speed can cut the process energy consumption up to 50%. Every customer has unique needs and therefore each drive must be carefully designed and configured early in the quotation process.
ABB and HiQ first came together in 2011, when the design project for a new version of the sales configurator kicked off in-house. “We have a long history of configuration thinking at ABB: we made our first preforms back in the mid-90s, but back then the sales and product configuration processes were completely separate,” explains Sami Mäki-Korte, the team leader responsible for tool development.
In 2010, ABB’s vision was to create a next-generation web-based sales configurator, a tool that would bring together product configuration and pricing. ABB also wanted a system that could continuously evolve, based on changing needs over time. For this long-term design and development work, ABB needed a competent and committed partner.
Sami fondly remembers the early days of the partnership. “HiQ took an active lead in the development of the configurator right from the start. Our development resources included excellent talent and we had young people from HiQ on the team with the latest know-how and the enthusiasm to innovate. We also had an experienced expert working on databases.”
The aim was to complete the first version of the configurator as quickly as possible and then continue active development and introduction of functionality according to user feedback and needs. Indeed, after only a year of development, the first version of Harvester was launched in June 2012, and by 2014, the system had all the essential functionality in place to support more than 80 sales and production units around the world.
Harvester is a versatile, unique solution tailored to customer needs that, according to Sami, outperforms off-the-shelf solutions with regard to ABB’s needs. It allows for the different stages of the bidding process to be completed quickly, based on reliable data. For example, it takes as little as 10 to 15 minutes to define a product configuration and create a quote and only five minutes to obtain product images for a quotation. This speed and fluidity benefits the entire global sales and delivery organisation – and ultimately, of course, the customer ordering drives from ABB.
“Harvester is absolutely essential for us globally. It’s a business-critical system and needs to work 24/7 to keep our business and customer deliveries running smoothly. Harvester allows us to communicate seamlessly between the sales unit and the factory, and the factory can see in real time what products are offered worldwide. Based on the defined configuration, the Order based engineering department can create the initial production documents, which in practice only need customer-specific finishing touches. Product development also uses Harvester as part of product design and testing. Harvester has everything under control, from quotation to delivery, and is indeed a kind of project management tool,” says Sami.
The long partnership between ABB and HiQ in the systematic development of Harvester is a testament to their commitment and the tangible added value of their collaboration. Currently, the tool development and maintenance team, led by Sami, includes four experts from ABB, as well as two full-time and two part-time developers from HiQ.
“The key to our partnership is that ideas are generated in the middle of the process, based on customer needs, and are developed together with the users. This is the only way to ensure the long-term development and maintenance of Harvester. You have to remember that these types of systems can have a lifespan of up to 30 years.”
Sami Mäki-KorteDesign Manager, ABB
ABB is satisfied in every respect with HiQ’s work. According to Sami, HiQ’s attitude is open, honest and solution-oriented, and ABB has always obtained the best resources and expertise from HiQ.
“We have a really good team. It’s easy to discuss new needs and opportunities. We always receive top talent from HiQ to support our team and the new DevOps model is a flexible addition to our partnership. Agreeing hourly rates in advance makes it quick and efficient to replenish the team according to our ever-changing skills needs. Future development with HiQ is well secured,” Sami sums up.
ABB’s Drives unit
ABB is the global market leader in the manufacture of AC drives. ABB’s AC drives business unit in Finland develops and manufactures low-voltage AC drives and related software tools for all applications and industries worldwide. The Helsinki factory is ABB’s leading unit for AC drive product development and employs around 1,300 people. Globally, ABB’s AC drives business employs 6,000 people in more than 80 countries. https://new.abb.com/fi
ABB (ABBN: SIX Swizz Ex) is a leading global technology company that energizes the transformation of society and industry to achieve a more productive, sustainable future. By connecting software to its electrification, robotics, automation and motion portfolio, ABB pushes the boundaries of technology to drive performance to new levels. With a history of excellence stretching back more than 130 years, ABB’s success is driven by about 105,000 talented employees in over 100 countries. www.abb.com