Standards ensure compatibility interview with Eaton COO Thomas S Gross

Issue 46 – February 2013

IEC Global Visions interviewed Thomas S. Gross, COO of Eaton and responsible for the company's nearly USD 7 billion electrical business. In the interview, Gross underlined that most of the major global challenges, and the markets that emerge around them, depend directly on the ability to connect solutions from different suppliers.The transition from products to total solutions requires interoperability and other Standards.

A long-term perspective

Eaton is one of the largest power management companies in the world. Founded over 100 years ago, the company takes a long-term view both in how it conducts its business and how it builds its products and solutions because investments need to last for many years or even decades.

From individual products to systems

The demand for power is growing rapidly and electricity is becoming increasingly important. The infrastructure to create and then distribute that electrical energy is becoming more and more complex. No single company, not even Eaton, has everything to get electricity from the point where it's produced to the points where it's used. Interoperability Standards are critical from any perspective because if the solutions, products, and information systems of different suppliers don't connect easily, the market will be impeded.

A day without electricity, even an hour without electricity is scary for most people. Gross believes that in the future it will be even more difficult to imagine life without electricity. The industry as a whole has an enormous responsibility to keep the lights on.

Many people in developing countries are transitioning to middle class, and one of the first things they want is more electricity so that they can have refrigeration and other devices that will create a better standard of living for them. At the same time, technologies are going through a major overhaul and solutions will have to move from individual products to systems that can improve efficiency by an order of magnitude. All of this creates a terrific opportunity and a crushing need for standardisation – to enable those markets, those changes to occur. Eaton wants to be a clear leader in all of those transformations.

Standardisation participation as a strategic tool

Eaton considers Standards as a strategic element of its business and key for the entire industry. Gross underlines that the company sees the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) as the most global Standards body that's available for them to work through. In his eyes the worldwide relevance of IEC work is particularly important because it is simply too expensive and wasteful to have country-specific or even regional Standards. Standards play a critical role and they really make markets, that's why Eaton's involvement in the IEC is extensive.

Eaton believes that the drive towards increasingly globally relevant Standards will continue to accelerate. This is necessary so that companies and their customers can take advantage of different technologies and lower costs.

More similarities than differences

Across the world Eaton finds a surprising consistency in the need, concerns and opportunities to evolve electrical and power infrastructures. Power will become scarcer over time, it will become more expensive, and the need for more efficiency and a lower impact on the environment is going to increase. IEC international Standards are widely used by the power industry. They allow companies to develop a solution to a problem and market it nearly everywhere in the world and this helps Eaton to globalise.

Hundreds of the smartest participate part time

There are hundreds of Eaton people involved in the IEC, most of them part-time. Gross believes that that's how it should be, because Eaton wants the best and brightest scientists, marketing, and business people to participate and share their expertise. Gross says, 'Our industry, and other industries, are right now going through a transition from products to total solutions. The IEC is right in the middle of all of that, and that's why we participate actively.'

Summarised from IEC's e-tech, November 2012.

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Published in energy.