In this research note, we examine the Building Automation (BA) business of Azbil, based on their FY2021 Annual Report, investor presentations, and building technology-related activities throughout 2021.
Building Automation, the largest of three business units, accounts for 47.3% of 2021 net sales. The other two businesses are Advanced Automation which supplies process and factory automation products and services and Life Automation, which provides residential metering and air conditioning products and services, as well as process equipment and environmental systems for pharmaceutical companies and life science laboratories.
The overall vision for the BA business is to become an Asia-based world-class supplier of building systems. Core strategies include:
- integrating their building automation systems, IoT devices and field equipment to optimize energy usage, air quality and temperature quality.
- Introducing cloud-based energy efficiency and virtual power plant services.
- Developing proven energy-saving apps and engineering services meeting safety and comfort needs in the overseas market.
BA sales, year ending 31 March 2021 declined 5.1% year on year to 117,522 million yen (around $1,019 million), due to project delays caused by the pandemic and sluggish demand in overseas business. The group’s strength in building automation in Japan is due to their large domestic market share; 84% was quoted in a 2018 company presentation.
In its half-year report of 2nd November 2021, Azbil announced that demand in the domestic building automation market has continued to grow for urban redevelopment projects and there was growing interest in solutions related to ventilation improvement, energy savings and CO2 reduction. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to be limited in Japan, but in overseas markets, sluggish demand and construction delays have continued in some regions due to its prolonged influence.
The group has been expanding global operations since 2012 by expansion into new regions with the aim of developing them into another engine for business growth. They currently have sales and service operations in 23 countries in South East Asia, China, US and Europe. In 2018 they established the Strategic Planning & Development Office in Singapore to oversee the South East Asia region. Overall, Azbil’s overseas sales have increased from 18.1 billion yen in 2010 to 44.9 billion yen in 2020, currently around 18% of total revenues.
In January 2021, Azbil announced that it would participate in an initiative to test new and innovative building automation solutions that can aid the development of smart cities at the Smart Urban Co-Innovation Lab in Singapore led by CapitaLand, one of Asia's largest diversified real estate groups. This initiative will leverage Azbil’s building automation capabilities with the Lab’s capability to bring together industry leaders for developing, testing, and integrating proof-of-concept technologies to enhance customer experience and comfort. Through the Lab, Azbil will explore possible collaboration with other participating companies to develop and manage projects requiring energy management solutions for the life cycle of buildings.
As part of this initiative, Azbil will install its pandemic-ready airflow control system in the Lab. The system, announced in July 2020, can easily convert an office meeting room into a temporary “pandemic-ready room” to isolate anyone who is suspected of carrying an infectious disease, while waiting to be taken to medical facilities.
In June 2021, Azbil began developing digital solutions for intelligent building management systems aimed at the overseas market with the support of the Singapore Economic Development Board. The new digital solutions aim to share and visualize information comprehensively, contribute to a sustainable society, and improve people’s quality of life. Specifically, they aim to improve the safety of buildings and occupants, increase convenience and energy efficiency, and reduce operational costs and buildings’ impact on the environment. This will be accomplished through an infrastructure that enables the status of the building and occupants to be checked and managed remotely.
In August 2020, Azbil announced the opening of the new Solution and Technology Center at its Thailand subsidiary Azbil (Thailand) Co., Ltd. for the purpose of providing next-generation intelligent services using IoT and AI technology. The new facility was built in Rayong province, one of Southeast Asia’s leading areas of industrial estates.
With over $1 billion in building automation sales, Azbil ranks as one of the top 6 players in the global market. With its leading position in the Japanese market and its overall strategy to become an Asia-based world-class supplier of building systems, it is strongly placed to compete with the top U.S. and European building automation suppliers.
This article was written by Daphne Tomlinson, Senior Research Associate at Memoori.