Ensto rides the winds of megatrends in its transition from a manufacturing company to a technology company.
No one can change the direction of the wind, but we can position our sail so that our boat moves in the right direction. I like to think of the megatrends as winds we cannot change. People are moving to bigger cities, living and working in smarter buildings and using transportation in completely new ways. New buildings are becoming digitalized, becoming more human-centric. Transportation is moving towards electric vehicles with zero emissions. Electrical grids are becoming smarter. People are choosing to consume sustainably, many preferring sharing over ownership. All these trends, these winds, support electricity as the basis of the modern way of life. Last year, Ensto announced its new strategic direction, and we have begun to work toward that. We’ve worked hard to understand the megatrends and how to position our company, our sailboat, if you will, in order to take advantage of them. In this new smart city environment, Ensto has two key focuses: smart grids and smart buildings.
People take electricity distribution for granted - they assume there’ll be a sufficient supply of electricity, regardless of how much they consume. But balancing supply and demand is a lot more complicated than people realize. Huge amounts of intelligence are required to keep the network in balance and power quality at a high level with new networks required to increase capacity. Imagine smart, consumption-side solutions, like electricity taken from car batteries to supply the network during periods of peak load. Imagine island networks using low voltage direct current solutions (LVDC) that make it possible to balance local production and consumption, and sell local electricity production to the grid during surplus periods.
We often talk about smart buildings, but not a single true smart building has yet been built. There are buildings with massive amounts of technology, but the systems are siloed and humans are adrift, trying to learn how to use them. A truly smart building will place users in the middle and implement technological solutions around human needs. To create these use-case-driven solutions requires tech solutions to be integrated, and this is the promise of digitalization. It’s happened in the telecom industry, for example, yet the construction industry is mostly untouched by digitalization. The challenge is to change the dynamic of this business. (You can read about some of these technologies in this issue of Ensto Today.)
Sailing 180 degrees off the wind – sailing in the same direction as the wind – is termed “running downwind” by sailors. So that Ensto may run downwind, we’ve made some changes in our organization and now operate three business units. Ensto Utility Networks is one we’re all familiar with and it continues as before. Our second business unit, Ensto Smart Buildings, combines electrification, lighting, and the electric vehicle charging businesses. This unit is designed to address the integration of systems in the domain of smart electricity, and we want to be in the lead in the creation of the smart building ecosystem. The third unit, Ensto Digital Solutions (DS), recognizes that future businesses will be driven by data, connectivity, and IoT architecture. DS brings together our cloud-based platform and service portfolio development. It’s a digital transformations business unit, creating new solutions for the whole lifecycle of both buildings and electricity distribution networks. Another important role for DS is to accelerate collaboration with third parties. Most of the innovation taking place in the world is happening outside our doors, and so we need solutions which are based both on our own products as well as our partners’ products.
Each year representatives from every Ensto country gather for a meeting of what we call the Ensto Council. For the past three years we have created artwork which expresses the values of Ensto. The painting called “Winning Together” was created by the Council in 2016, and it shows Ensto solutions, with arrows of how they’re combined and integrated for a better future. It’s all about how collaboration and in-depth understandings of our customers’ businesses lead to mutually profitable growth, or winning together. In 2017, we created a cityscape called "Creativity," which shows the context of our strategic direction. There’s a smart building in the middle, and all the megatrends and ecosystems Ensto focuses on are represented. This year, we created a "Trust Capital" mobile. It’s an artistic expression of the behaviors we want to keep in mind when it comes to trust. At Ensto we are always discussing our values, behavior, and culture, and now we have permanent art pieces representing them. The art is on display at our headquarters in Porvoo, Finland. In fact, they’re right in the lobby where customers and employees will see them, where they’re part of our everyday life.
The journey from being a manufacturing company to a technology company will be long. Of course we’ll always be a manufacturing company, but more and more we’ll add new technologies from partners. It’s not an either-or proposition, but rather becoming a technology company requires that we renew our mindset in many ways. This year Ensto celebrates its 60th anniversary. We’ve enjoyed 60 years of enabling better and smarter uses of electricity while always creating more sustainable solutions. Today, Ensto is an international electrical solution provider with 1,600 employees. If we are able to rig our canvases correctly and continue to sail downwind, we will likely grow to significantly greater size. But no matter how we grow, I hope that we will always bear in mind that our most important asset is still trust, and that our purpose is a better life with electricity.
Author: Ari Virtanen