I took some time away from the Industry Week Best Plants / MESA North America Conference this week to attend a press conference with Dr. Helmuth Ludwig, CEO, Siemens Industry Sector, North America. Ludwig has been consistently on message in my last several conversations about the “manufacturing renaissance” in America.

In the press conference, he pointed to Tuesday’s (April 23) Siemens-sponsored Washington Post Live forum. Here government officials and leading executives gathered to discuss “America’s New Manufacturing.” Topics included re-shoring, new regional manufacturing hubs within the U.S., trends in manufacturing, training a new workforce and innovations in advanced technology.

Siemens, quite frankly unusual for it in the US, is taking a bold approach to evangelizing manufacturing in the US. On April 30, at 2:00 p.m. (EDT), Siemens, in partnership with IndustryWeek, will announce the results of a research study about manufacturing in America via live webcast.

Siemens will also host several more thought leadership events. On May 17, Siemens and MAPI (Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation) will bring you “The Future of Manufacturing Innovation” from Chicago. In June, Siemens hosts its end user Automation Summit in New Orleans, followed with additional events in Los Angeles and New York.

Briefing Overview

During the briefing, Ludwig stated, “Innovation and manufacturing must be aligned, but it is often not the best strategy to ‘design it here – make it there.’ Only a close connection of innovation and manufacturing allows manufacturers to ‘drive’ product and process innovation.”

Following are a few quotes lifted from the presentations.

According to Ron Bloom, Senior Advisor, Lazard; Former Assistant to the President for Manufacturing Policy, the manufacturing sector should find a means to combine the innovation power of Silicon Valley, with the efficiency of the Detroit automotive sector.

Additionally, statistics provided by James Manyika, Director, McKinsey Global Institute, show that while the manufacturing sector only represents 9% of jobs, it represents 61% of exports and 69% of privately funded research and development.

Bill Krueger, Senior Vice President, Manufacturing, Purchasing and Supply Chain Management for Nissan North America stated, “We want to be fast, frugal and flexible,” which they can only be if they are close to their customers.

The crossroads of the virtual and real worlds are upon us in the manufacturing sector, as evidenced by Michael Gazarik, Director, Space Technology Program, NASA, who described how software ensured the success of the Mars Rover program through flight and landing simulation.

Expanding upon this concept, Ludwig told the press, “The transformation taking place in the U.S. manufacturing sector is highly based on software. Organizations, like NASA and JPL using Siemens PLM software for design and simulation; Daimler using Siemens CAD software NX; or BMW using Siemens TIA Portal, among others, have embraced this concept and are experiencing a shorter time-to-market through efficient innovation cycles and enhanced flexibility using more data to “individualize” mass production.”

According to Airbus Americas Chairman, Allan McArtor, there will always be a necessary balance between automation and human functions with highly-skilled workers. There are places in manufacturing for both humans and automation.

“Siemens manufacturing plant in Charlotte is an excellent example of how gas turbines with the highest efficiency can be produced in the US at the highest level of competiveness, based on automation technology from Siemens and skilled workers trained in partnership with Piedmont Community College,” noted Ludwig.

In his keynote address at the forum, Siemens Corp. President and CEO, Eric Spiegel, noted that the notion of a skills gap in the manufacturing sector has to be transferred to a “training gap.” Only by moving the responsibility from the trained to the trainer, and from the individual to the companies and educational institutions, are we addressing this challenge in the right manner. Companies like Siemens, as well as educational institutions, must facilitate the development of industry’s current and future workers. Spiegel highlighted Siemens apprenticeship program for students studying mechatronics, whereby after successful completion of the program, students are offered employment with a starting salary of $50,000 – especially remarkable if we compare this with the average starting salary of $43,000 for liberal arts graduates.

According to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, government’s role is to allocate capital in the right places for where the jobs are, and support the training necessary to fill those jobs. Tennessee has allocated funds to support technology centers, resulting in a 90% graduation rate and 90% job placement rate.

In closing, Siemens expects 4% cumulative growth through 2018. Fred Hochberg, Chairman and President, Export-Import Bank of the United States also expressed optimism about growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector, citing a tremendous upside, particularly with regards to our export potential.

Watch for the launch of The Manufacturing Connection coming soon. “Connecting things, data and people in a digital world promoting manufacturing excellence.”

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