Siemens: New facility still learns from experience
WEB EXCLUSIVE: Siemens has used the experience of its workers all over the world to build and expand their operations
With 22 years of manufacturing experience to rely on, Brian Somerville got to build a plant from scratch last year when Siemens Industry Inc. opened its new Simogear facility in Maudlin, S.C. It is built for future growth in the product line, but it also was built with all of the lessons from Siemens facilities around the world. Somerville talked with Plant Engineering about the challenges and opportunities in building a new plant.
Plant Engineering: Now that the recession is behind us, what are the lessons you learned about your operations, your workers and manufacturing?
Somerville: This facility opened earlier this year, so we weren’t operating during the recession. However, the recession confirmed the importance of Lean process, efficient resources, and a well-trained staff to make sure that we are and remain as efficient as possible. We ensured we incorporated these practices from very beginning due to experience with the recession and market uncertainties.
PE: Why are you optimistic about your own manufacturing operation?
Somerville: This facility is a new facility for Siemens Industry. We recently launched our new product, Simogear, and held the grand opening of our plant. This product strengthens Siemens Industry Drive Technologies’ portfolio, completes our Integrated Drive Systems offering, and provides our customers higher mechanical efficiency and quick delivery times, even as short as same day. These benefits that we are providing to the gear motor market is already exciting customers and building demand. This level of excitement makes us very optimistic, and we are excited to meet that demand.
PE: Are you as optimistic about American manufacturing as a whole?
Somerville: Confidence is continuing to build in the America’s manufacturing base, and we are starting to see new investments in productivity and efficiency. Our business supplies gear motors to many industries. From our perspective, the manufacturers are in a buying mode right now and we are seeing a lot of positive activity.
On a larger scale, we see companies shifting their manufacturing operations back to the U.S. partially due to factors such as increasing cost of logistics internationally as well as consumer preferences. Another factor that is making manufacturing more attractive in the U.S. is manufacturing software; it is pushing the edge of what is possible. These factors position America to lead the next manufacturing renaissance.
PE: What is the best thing you do in your plant today? What is the area of your operation you are most proud of?
Somerville: As I mentioned, this is a new facility so making sure we had the right equipment, IT infrastructure and software was important to us. Our cooperation with equipment builders, vendors and other partners helped us get up to speed quickly. We invested in top of the line equipment that will not only work for us right now but in the future as our facility expands. We also have a strong emphasis on Lean manufacturing and are continuously improving processes when needed.
PE: On the other hand, where do you have the most room for improvement? What’s the plan for improvement?
Somerville: With a new facility, the main improvement is modifying processes when needed to make sure we are providing the best product and service to our customers. We continue Lean analyses and tweak material flow and other key processes when needed. We want to make sure we do not get complacent and are always looking for a better way to do things.
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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.