Industry Voices: Dr. Helmuth Ludwig
As president of both a major North American manufacturing supplier and a major North American manufacturer, Dr. Helmuth Ludwig, CEO of Siemens Industry Sector, North America, shares a dual perspective of the state of manufacturing.
With the federal tax picture a little clearer as 2013 begins, how is your business poised to grow in 2013?
While there are still several issues to be resolved, Siemens continues to be cautiously optimistic about economic growth in North America. We expect to build on our significantly strengthened market position. We anticipate moderate growth within the U.S. short-term and look to the entire North American market to provide significant opportunities in the mid-term.
We continue to see signs that the U.S. is on the cusp of a manufacturing renaissance. Manufacturing here has become more attractive, and increased productivity has made U.S.-produced goods more competitive. Additionally, with more and more sophisticated demand, companies value fast reaction time and recognize the challenges of shipping goods across oceans. Large domestic natural gas reserves are paving the way for lower electricity costs in comparison to other countries and very attractive “feedstock” cost for companies that use natural gas as one of their manufacturing inputs.
What challenges still are in front of you?
From a political and macroeconomic view, taking out more of the uncertainties of the last months will be very important. With the additional growth, however, there continues to be a skills gap among American workers. We simply don’t have enough engineers, skilled tradespersons, IT professionals, and highly qualified production workers to fill the increasing need for high-tech production and engineering roles.
Siemens has converted this challenge into an obligation to participate very actively in developing the next generation of manufacturing workers, and this is why we are investing more than $500 million in job training and education programs globally.
From a manufacturing standpoint, what are your goals for the year?
As a global manufacturer, we hope to maintain the momentum we currently have. We are taking advantage of our increased software portfolio in our own production facilities, combining the digital design of products with the latest automation equipment to ensure a quicker time to market and a reduction in production time and cost, while using resources more efficiently. Our manufacturing facilities are becoming “test labs” for the latest Siemens technologies, allowing us to capitalize upon our significant research and development efforts. Last, and most importantly, being close to our North American customer base with a complete set of competencies is vital to our success.
Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.