Report from Hannover: Product focus is on innovation, energy, says Siemens executive
Views on energy efficiency, the global economic downturn, and capital expenditure value assessment are covered in an exclusive Control Engineering interview with Klaus Helmrich, CEO, Drives Technologies Division, Siemens. See photo.
Control Engineering editorial director David Greenfield, Consulting-Specifying Engineer editor Michael Ivanovich, and Plant Engineering editor Bob Vavra will be reporting from Hannover Messe this week on the new ideas and new technologies from the 2009 event.
Hannover, Germany – During Hannover Fair, Control Engineering editorial director David Greenfield had an exclusive interview with Klaus Helmrich, CEO, Drives Technologies Division, Siemens. The interview focused on energy efficiency (a major topic at Siemens’ Hannover booth), the global economic downturn, and capital expenditure value assessment.
Greenfield: One analyst firm has recently suggested that the global recession has, in effect, killed the energy efficiency push that gained so much attention in the past year. What is Siemens opinion of this assertion?
Helmrich: Manufacturers must always look at cost structures, regardless of whether energy efficiency is a hot topic. When manufacturers see opportunities for improvement, they should act on those. In Europe and Asia, there is heavy focus on energy and water/wastewater as it relates to manufacturing plants. Each of these cost significant amounts of money, so any savings you can gain in these areas are worth pursuing.
Siemens highlights new control unit, industrial PC, and fail-safe software controller.
As CEO of Siemens Drive Technologies, I am responsible for investments associated with 14 factories and I focus on energy efficiency. It’s one of the major goals related to target incentive settings for all of Siemens factories.
In light of the economic situation that has hit manufacturing particularly hard in the past six months, has Siemens altered its strategy in any way to confront it, in terms of product focus or industries served?
We remain focused on the strategy set forth last year related to the realignment of the former Automation & Drives business unit into two divisions—Industry Automation and Drive Technologies. With IA focused on the digital factory and DT focused on drives—from the mechanical parts to the control system—and using the Totally Integrated Automation framework to connect the two, we believe this is still the best way to address what our customers need, even during this downturn. This separate, but connected approach allows us to focus on helping customers increase productivity in terms of total lifecycle costs of their operations—from both an engineering and maintenance perspective.
Considering what has happened to global manufacturing economically in the past year, what are your customers asking for now?
Among our installed base of customers, we continue to get requests to help them increase energy efficiencies and productivity. When it comes to electric drives, our customers are very clearly focused on having us deliver high levels of reliability and quality.
Our machine tool manufacturer customers, in particular, are looking for more innovation from us to help them develop more effective tools for their markets. In response, we are working directly with our top machine tool customers in detail about how we can innovate in ways that will directly help their customers.
Surveys are beginning to show that capital expenditures are starting to increase among some industrial businesses. Are you seeing this?
Siemens looks at three things when considering capital expenditures: whether or not to increase capacity, if new technologies warrant the replacing of older machines, and increasing productivity. Past increases in capital expenditures have been driven by increasing capacity. We currently have enough capacity right now, but we are analyzing the purchase of new equipment and will do so if the ROI is on target.
When it comes to the use of automation, what’s the takeaway lesson from the current economic situation for engineers?
Your automation supplier has to be reliable in terms of innovation power and ability. You need that innovative ability to help you be innovative.
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Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.
There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.
But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.
Read more: 2015 Salary Survey