Helmut Ludwig, CEO of Siemens Industry USA, took time after attending the "America's New Manufacturing" conference, held April 23 at the offices of the Washington Post and sponsored by Siemens, to discuss what he felt the strongest takeaways from the conference were.
He noted that in the keynote, Eric Spiegel, CEO Siemens Corp., had challenged American companies. "America has a training gap," Ludwig quoted Spiegel. It isn't a skills gap, it is a training gap, and that is very important. "Until we put the burden on those who train, rather than those who need to be trained, we'll never solve the problem," Spiegel said.
Ludwig added, "We have a quite intense dialog running right now about the future of manufacturing in America. Some people talk about a manufacturing renaissance. Others talk about advanced manufacturing. Some even talk about a fourth industrial revolution. German Chancellor Angela Merkel pronounced it Industry 4.0 because it is more of an evolution building on what has gone before."
He added, "In May we will talk about productivity, and in June we will meet with our most important end users at Automation Summit in New Orleans. This is a running dialog we believe we have to keep up, especially in this space, because there is still a bumpy road ahead before we can really see the manufacturing renaissance."
Ludwig noted the presence of both industry and government with speakers such as U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Amy Kobuchar (D-Minn.); Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee; Allan McArtor, chairman, Airbus Americas; Ron Bloom, former Obama manufacturing policy leader and now vice chairman, U.S. Investment
Banking at Lazard Frères; Bill Krueger, senior vice president, manufacturing, for Nissan; James Manyika of McKinsey Global Institute; and others. The list of speakers can be found at www.washingtonpost.com/postlve/conferences/manufacturing.
Four important themes ran through the entire conference. First was the connection of innovation and manufacturing. Second was virtual innovation. Third was the human element. The fourth and last was the training gap.
"This is not our father's or our grandfather's manufacturing job," Ludwig proclaimed. "It is a highly skilled job that is an interaction between human functions and automation. There will always be a place for human interaction in manufacturing. The lights-out factory is dead.
"Our U.S. manufacturing plants, like the one in North Carolina that makes gas turbines, can only work because we have the workforce that has the skills and the training to make it work."
Ludwig added, "But, as Eric Spiegel said this morning, skills are the responsibility of companies like Siemens. We need to know what the needs of manufacturing today and tomorrow are, and then work with the schools and train the people to handle those highly sophisticated jobs. We have programs in North Carolina running education in mechatronics, and graduates come out of them to a starting salary of over $50,000. Compare that to liberal arts graduates at $43,000. And Siemens pays for the training program, and the graduate is completely free of debt. We need to foster the same types of apprenticeship programs here as in Germany.
"We are generating critical mass, finally. This is a great movement of the general public that is just taking off. We need to explain to the next generation how attractive manufacturing jobs are going to be."