In conversation with John Robb, Segment Director, Commercial & Industrial Buildings EMEA, Eaton Group
11 May 2021
Intelligent power management company Eaton recently became the first company to join Orgalim for Corporates, our newly launched corporate access programme. We sat down with John Robb, who leads the relationship with Orgalim, to talk about why, and hear his views on the importance of engaging in policy advocacy as a technology industry leader.
Policy advocacy and regulatory intelligence has always been important for businesses in the manufacturing and technology industries but seems to be becoming more so than ever. Would you agree?
Very much so. The whole industry is going through a massive transformation. The way I describe it, I've worked in this industry for 36 years now and it's probably changed more in the last three or four years than it has in the 30-odd years before that. We really are going through a major change and so contributing to the debate and influencing how that debate rolls out, we think is quite critical to manufacturers.
Eaton runs a very active advocacy programme in the US and in Europe and clearly we focus on issues that align with our strategy, but we also see how this contributes to wider society. As a global player, I think we have a responsibility to the wider industry to help drive change that benefits wider society and helps our industry develop.
So energy management from a sustainability perspective is of interest to us all, and seeing good policy that can be delivered, and is not just wishful thinking, is something we can contribute to. And I think this is one of the things that manufacturers can bring to the table: this pragmatic approach that policy is good but it has to be deliverable. Because if it's not, it's just pipe dreams. And it's the manufacturers who are often best placed to really comment on, is this really practical?
Can you talk a bit about what prompted you to join Orgalim for Corporates?
Eaton has been actively involved in a number of trade bodies over a number of years, at both national and European level. As part of our ongoing reviews, we identified that Orgalim has a significant alignment with many points of interest for us. And also, as the trade association of trade associations, you have a very close and strong relationship and influence at EU policy level.
We feel that, as a truly global player, we have a responsibility to be actively contributing to the debate and the higher level that we can do that, the better. And I think being part of the corporate scheme gives us that more direct and immediate access, so we can work on the working groups and task forces that are specifically of interest us. So of course we can learn much from what goes on there, but our intent is to be an active contributor. We see the corporate scheme as a great initiative and we hope some of our peers will also take up membership.
I should add also that I think it gives Eaton some kudos being part of an organisation like Orgalim as well. We are a global player and we should behave like a global player, so I think it's good for our brand.
Being part of relevant trade bodies is a great way to achieve alignment with the wider industry– and with Orgalim representing the widest manufacturing sector in Europe, we really see this as a big opportunity.
Do you see the way that businesses such as yours engage in advocacy changing and, if so, how?
That’s an interesting question. I think for Eaton we have strong opinions on certain aspects of policy but we believe they need to be aligned and amplified so policy makers are getting clear and consistent messages. If they hear inconsistent messages from different parts of the industry, it's going to be confusing. So, if through sector associations or through Orgalim we can get a very clear and strong voice of industry over, then we think that's going to resonate a lot more with the policy makers.
I think we are recognising that we probably need to engage more with the wider industry and that may mean adjusting our message a little so it works for others, although we wouldn’t want to compromise our view. Being part of relevant trade bodies is a great way to achieve this – probably the only way to achieve that alignment – and with Orgalim representing the widest manufacturing sector in Europe, we really see this as a big opportunity. So I guess the fact that we have chosen to join the Orgalim's corporate scheme is an example of how we are changing.
Similarly, as digitalisation and new business models make participating in ecosystems increasingly necessary, what would you say it takes to do that successfully?
Does digitalisation transform our business? Absolutely it does. We see coming from digitalisation, the deployment of a whole range of value-added digital services. For manufacturers, this means they may have to consider the whole lifecycle of the products and systems, as end customers want the benefits of the systems without having to think too much about the technology.
A good example in the buildings sector would be that a building owner may want to provide EV charging for its staff and customers, but doesn’t want the hassle of becoming a charge point operator. This presents new revenue opportunities for manufacturers and their partners so we should embrace it.
The partnerships are important because, within ecosystems, it's unlikely any one manufacturer is going to control and manage all the elements of the ecosystem, but the customer wants a fully functioning solution. And it's businesses that can build those partnerships and alliances that can deliver a solution to the customer – providing that package of hardware, software and services that adds value to the end user – that will benefit.
Which elements of Orgalim's services and opportunities do you see as particularly valuable to Eaton in general and your part of the business in particular?
Eaton have opted to participate in a number of the working groups including Environmental Sustainability, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation and Sustainable Mobility. I have to say that, just a few months in, we are still very much in learning mode. We need to understand how Orgalim works in practical terms, so it's difficult to say at the moment which elements give us the most value. As we get our feet under the table, I’d hope you would see our contribution grow, and we should also better understand what we take away. So maybe this is a question you need to ask me in 12 months time!