My secret? Remain curious! says Andreas Kramvis, the new chair of the America Group

15 Jul 2013

What does your position as President and CEO of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies involve?
Leading a complex business group such as Performance Materials and Technologies is like conducting an orchestra. We have a multitude of global businesses, a complex supply chain and numerous support functions all requiring deep expertise to excel. Getting all of these pieces to function in harmony in a consistent, sustainable way is my primary role.

Is renewable energy one of the main focuses for Honeywell?
Global demand for energy is rising rapidly along with population growth and increased urbanisation. Addressing this demand will require all the solutions available to us; ranging from increased use of natural gas to getting more value from each barrel of oil.

Renewable energy will be an important part of the equation. Honeywell's UOP business has process technologies, equipment and materials to help refiners produce valuable products from a variety of feedstocks, including green fuels from non-edible sources that are molecularly identical to those produced from petroleum. Honeywell is also helping drive the economic conversion of biomass to green fuels and also participates in other alternate energy sources that can play a big role in our future.

Nuclear energy can be a clean way to generate massive amounts of power, but societal issues in accepting this option need to be addressed. Solar energy can be very significant, especially where sunshine is plentiful. We have seen terrific cost improvements in solar in recent years.

In your opinion, is there anything the industry should be doing differently with respect to renewable energy?
As the technologies to produce renewable biofuels mature, they are becoming far more economically attractive. The conversion costs are at par with traditional resources. Our biggest challenges are in establishing the mass production of affordable feedstocks. Our industry needs to partner with feedstock producers and government entities to create affordable supplies. Even as we think about alternative means for energy generation, let's not forget energy efficiency.

More than 50% of our portfolio across Honeywell relates to energy and energy-efficiency offerings. For example, we studied this issue a few years ago and found that if Honeywell's existing portfolio of energy-efficiency technologies were immediately and comprehensively adopted, the US could reduce its energy demand by 20-25%.

What is the next big development in the world of high performance materials and technologies?
There are a lot of aggressive, fast-moving companies working on the next wave of materials and related technologies that will reshape many industries over the coming decades. While it can be fun to make predictions, I find it is the unknown that ultimately makes things interesting.

You've worked in key markets across five different industries: how do you transfer your skills across such a variety of roles?
I operate from first principles and ground everything I do in a core set of philosophies. At the centre, I have a strong operating mechanism for my business where business leaders and subject-matter experts actively engage on a regular basis to make key decisions and allocate resources where they're most needed. I provide details on how this works in my book, Transforming the corporation: running a successful business in the 21st century.

You have a reputation for transforming businesses, but it must be a daunting prospect, coming in to head up a multibillion dollar business - where do you begin?
I always start with the fundamentals. I aim to come up to speed not only on technologies but on markets. For the first 60-90 days, I listen and observe far more than I talk. I implement an operating system that drives good decision making based on sound economics, and then work to sharpen that system to the point where it becomes a growth driver and a source of competitive advantage.

You've recently become chair of SCI America: how did you first become involved with SCI?
I became acquainted with SCI shortly after assuming my current position in early 2008. As a newcomer to the industry, I quickly realised the importance of SCI in advancing the science of chemistry, stimulating the industry and providing great forums for people to meet and exchange ideas. For example: SCI's Innovation Day and high-profile awards, such as the Perkin Medal and Gordon E Moore Medal, are extremely valuable, and I am proud to help support them.

What advice would you give a young person trying to emulate your success?
Focus on developing your skills, knowledge and judgment. Never stop learning, regardless of how advanced you get in your career. Never close your mind. Always stay curious.

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