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Darius Adamczyk, CEO of Honeywell

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Most companies kicked off the Dow Jones Industrial Average don’t make it back on. But Honeywell, which was on the Dow from 1925 to 2008, was added back in August.

“I was literally looking at my phone, and I had one of these Wall Street Journal tags come across that basically said, ‘Honeywell and Salesforce and Amgen rejoined the Dow,'” Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk told CNBC’s Jim Cramer at the CNBC Evolve Summit on Tuesday.

That event came just a short time before Honeywell celebrated its 100-year anniversary. Getting to 100, and getting back on the Dow, speaks to how Honeywell has remained relevant.

Adamczyk says technology, primarily software, has been key for Honeywell. As the company known for its industrial sector history expands into more business lines, the CEO said there is one common thread that reinforces the software story. Whether it is buildings’ systems, aerospace, industrials, or warehouse automation, Honeywell is “predominantly a controls company,” Adamczyk said.

“Whether it’s controlling how a building operates, controlling how an aircraft flies, controlling the warehouse, that is the common thread,” he said. “When you control things, you have to be connected to everything, and you have to collect the data that’s exhibited in all the devices, all the sensors throughout the systems.”

Honeywell, which has faced difficult business conditions for many of its operating units during the pandemic, has bounced back and reached its highest stock price in five years. Jim Cramer says it’s still not “classically expensive.”

Honeywell is not just control the data flow, but using it to generate value, such as in energy savings. “Whether it’s our offerings in connected buildings, connected aircraft, connected warehouse, we’re just leveraging what we’ve been doing in a very different way. I know we’re kind of viewed as this industrial company … those are our roots, but we’re also a controls company and a technology company.”

The Honeywell-connected enterprise business, which is run by Que Dallara, is a software as a service company. And it is at the forefront of bleeding edge technology, such as quantum computing, which seeks to supplant the era of the microchip as the limit on available computing power.

“We’re gaining customers literally by the day,” Adamczyk said of quantum computing. “I mean, you know, I promised our investors that in 2020 this will become real and we’ll start generating revenue and we are, and it’s going to accelerate next year.”

Software is big part of Honeywell’s future

That is a microcosm of where the company is going long term as it moves beyond its roots, which the CEO described as “a hybrid that’s going to have some hardware presence, but the software is going to become a much more prominent part of who we are and how we move forward.”

As the shipping business booms as a result of the coronavirus, Honeywell is also seeing big growth from its automated warehouse segment.

“The business is booming right now, and it’s not a surprise. I mean, obviously the Covid era really drove to home delivery, warehouse automation,” Adamczyk said. “We’re trying to move it even more towards the use of robotics, use of what we call a ‘dark warehouse,’ which is minimizing labor in a warehouse, and we’re making great progress and winning a lot of jobs.”

The Honeywell CEO said it’s been “a great bookings year” for Intelligrated — Intelligrated is the material handling automation and software engineering company. “I think it’s only the beginning. Sure, Covid accelerated that trend, but it’s something that’s going to continue.”

We’re trying to stay relevant to what it’s going to need for the next decade.

Darius Adamczyk

Honeywell CEO

Honeywell is also investing in several renewable energy technologies, and most recently, it acquired Ballard Unmanned Systems, which developed hydrogen fuel cell-powered drones. Adamczyk described the dela as “a relatively small acquisition but a very important one” for the company, which has a deep history in the aerospace sector, as it pushed into the area of unmanned aircraft systems and urban aerial mobility.

“We put together a whole new business unit around UAS/AUM and we think another way to power them is through the use of hydrogen. … I don’t think UAMs are going to be a meaningful part of our revenue portfolio in the next year or two, but I think they are going to be very meaningful in the next decade or two. And we think that hydrogen is a very interesting energy to power these type of vehicles,” Adamczyk told Jim Cramer at the CNBC Evolve Summit.

Barron’s recently referred to Honeywell’s evolution as the “Dow’s Tesla” and it is investing in the early days of energy storage through what was historically its oil and gas and petrochemical refining company, UOP (Universal Oil Processing). Adamczyk said energy storage is “the last linchpin to make renewables a reality and much more prevalently used throughout the globe.”

Honeywell is still in the research phase of its energy storage business, with new longer-lasting battery technology prototypes being built this quarter, Adamczyk said, and he added, “Hopefully they’ll work, and I’m confident that they will, but in case they won’t, we’re going to go off and do something different.”

Honeywell’s role in Covid-19

Cramer said he can see the stock going to $250 in an economic recovery and the Honeywell CEO said changes to the cuts forced by the pandemic will help as hard-hit businesses like aerospace rebound.

“I think our stock is inexpensive. … as the markets and the economies come back, not only are we going to be able to grow and grow very profitably, we also have a series of new solutions that we’re bringing to the market. … I think we’re going to go on a tremendous run here with a much-improved cost structure,” he said.

“People want to get on an aircraft, whether it’s personal travel or business travel. You know, I want to get out there and travel again, and I think a lot of our colleagues at Honeywell do, a lot of my friends and family want to travel again. And I think as soon as they feel safe, they’re going to do it. Hopefully we’ll have a relatively quick rollout of the vaccine in the first half of 2021. And I see travel returning in force as soon as maybe even the second half of next year,” Adamczyk said.

There are also several business lines directly related to the pandemic response, including mask production, sensors for ventilators; healthier HVAC systems for buildings and aircrafts, and even new packaging materials for a vaccine.

The Honeywell CEO decided early on when reading about vaccine efforts that billions of doses were going to be needed for the next several years, which mean “we’re going to need billions upon billions of vials of glass.”

Assuming there would be a shortage of glass, and knowing Honeywell already had a health-care packaging business called Aclar, it went to work calling the big pharma companies, and it is involved in numerous trials, he said. “It’s going to help the world get these vaccines out that much faster than if we’re just purely dependent on glass,” Adamczyk said.

The vaccine vial effort — the CEO said no one yet knows whether vaccines will need to be retaken annually — is one example of how Honeywell thinks about being ready for the future.

“We’re trying to stay relevant to what it’s going to need for the next decade,” Adamczyk said.

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