October 2008

Siemens U.S. chief: Language key to globalization efforts

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dennis Sadlowski, president and chief executive of Siemens Energy & Automation, sat down with InTech Editor Gregory Hale during the 2008 Siemens Automation Summit in Chicago to talk about issues in the industry.

InTech: Globalization is a huge issue in the industry these days. How are you able to get past the cultural issues from country to country?

Sadlowski: As an organization, it is in our roots, and we deal with those cross cultural activities internally all the time. So, we are able to emulate a little bit of our internal learnings as well when we work with customers who are also global by expanding production making site decisions based on global parameters.

InTech: What is the difference between a global company and a company that sells across the world?

Sadlowski: I would define the difference to a company that has operations in a wide variety of countries, their own people, their own production, and their own systems. That would be one I call global. Then there are large companies that do a great deal of exporting product around the world. That may be in the category of being an international business, but not necessarily a global company.

InTech: The engineer's job has changed considerably over the past five years, how do you see the job changing in the next three to five years?

Sadlowski: Some of that comes back to the first couple of questions. The larger companies are looking at the market and its global opportunities in the various regional and local areas. They are looking at solutions that can be emulated to the greatest degree and shared via best practices and then reinforced on a global basis. Today's engineers need to be more adept at understanding some of the local nuances, and as well, some of the cross cultural skills. You can't be an expert at every system in every country with every standard, but they really need to have the cross cultural skills to get out the salient things.

InTech: Do you see engineers being more specialized or more generalized?

Sadlowski: For all the things that bring convergence, they spawn areas of unique specialty. It is a real mix even in our own organization. It is a real mix of having that real depth of specialization either for a vertical industry like food and beverage or oil and gas where there are differences. At the same time, there will also be necessary the broad-based generalists who also can differentiate themselves be seeing the trends and really looking at architectures and integration as the key drivers of value.

InTech: What do you see as the end user's main issue that keeps executives up at night?

Sadlowski: Certainly the rising costs of energy and the related elements of sustainability are top of mind with executives we meet with. It has really moved the discussion from more lower-end engineering proof of concept to real how do I get this moving because the business case in the current environment is clear and it is short term and it is about money as much as it is about sustainability. Related to that, costs for materials in a number of areas are also up. We read a lot about inflation in a number of areas and that, too, is a big, big topic around a lot of manufacturing environments when it is oil as a raw material, or steel, or iron ore, or others. There is a lot of pressure from underneath on costs, and that puts productivity front and center.

InTech: Is there a ceiling on productivity or is that a never ending thing?

Sadlowski: I am very optimistic we have not reached any ceilings on productivity. It is kind of like when someone reaches the four minute mile and all of a sudden there is a bunch of people doing the same thing.

InTech: Baby Boomers leaving the industry; how will that affect the industry, and how do you fix it?

Sadlowski: On a global basis, a company like Siemens is pocketed all over the world and continuing to grow in engineering skills. In the United States, we are falling short of expectations in getting people involved. In terms of what are we doing about it, Siemens has a very wide commitment to science and technology education from Siemens Science days in grade schools and a host of programs through AP courses and honoring teachers, a science technology contest at the high school level, and on through university sponsorships.

InTech: Do you see the engineer's job being more IT centric? Do you see the two areas merging?

Sadlowski: They already have. If you look at what people study today in engineering than perhaps when I studied engineering, their role is much more significantly IT oriented.