Jag Rao, President Siemens Customer Services DivisionI am at the Siemens Automation Summit in New Orleans this week. Shortly we will be leaving for a tour of a sugar refinery that was recently upgraded.

Last night at dinner, we were introduced to the new Customer Services Division. I had the opportunity for extended discussion with Jagannath Rao, who is division president and also Galina Antova (Global Program Manager of Industrial Security Services), Seth Marellapudi (Segment Head, Industrial Security Services), and Tony Serrao (Marketing Manager–who, like me, passed up dessert, but we still had more than enough to eat).

Automation companies traditionally looked at service as a cost center–the cost of fulfilling warranty contracts. The entire point-of-view has changed dramatically over the past few years–especially at Siemens.

Rao said that Services is a new business unit begun only in October 2011. The goal is to associate with customers through Lifecycle of business. He mentioned that he was charged with bringing 22 separate services groups together under one head and then merging the cultures with the new expectations.

There are two groups in the new division. Lifecycle Services support products and help customers extract maximum value from their existing (and future) equipment. That is expected. But Rao’s team asked, “What really differentiates services?” The answer was the Value Services business. Its conversations with customers revolves around outcomes–security, uptimes, reliabilities, remote services. “Not where we go in and give solutions, but where we collaborate with customer. Support industry help them go to next level.”

Rao also said, “We consider ourselves a mega-startup within Siemens.” A little later in a conversation with Antova, who is charged with establishing an overall security solution within the Values unit, talked about a recent Harvard Business Review article about “Lean Startups”. That’s what we are, she told me, within the Siemens organization.

My takeaway is that this is a great way to get closer to customers. And it fits within the vision of Siemens Industry US President, Helmuth Ludwig, who always talks about Manufacturing Renaissance and improving overall manufacturing performance.

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