Globalization was well underway before the Internet began transforming the way international business is conducted. Now that companies can find and contact international suppliers using the Web in seconds, responding to intercontinental requests has become a critical part of a successful business strategy.
Barriers of all sorts have tumbled as Internet access made it easier to find information. In minutes, equipment designers and users can find far more specifications and pricing figures than they could glean in days using volumes of outdated catalogs.
Developers can also tap knowledge that previously would have been available only in centers of excellence. Expertise that was once found only in a specific region, like brewing in St. Louis or Germany, can now be accessed from anywhere, making it simpler for regional specialists to start companies.
“With the free flow of information, it’s fairly easy for a manufacturer in Brazil to connect with a company in France or the U.S., and it’s easier to approach countries outside your own borders," says Malcolm Evans, global business manager, Siemens Industry.
This access to information is creating a global market for specialized equipment made primarily in a region where there’s a large demand. But often, companies that have long focused on local customers are unequipped to meet the challenges of international sales and support.
Siemens Industry anticipated this happening and established a program 8 years ago that specializes in helping businesses pull together all the elements they need to succeed in the international marketplace.
GloBiz, as it’s called, has a cross-regional support team with around 120 managers responsible for more than 190 countries. There’s already a huge demand for the coordination that these specialists provide—the group is typically working on “a couple hundred” projects at any given time.
GloBiz staffers help companies meet a range of international needs. "There are end users who purchase machines and products internationally and bring them back to the U.S., and there are machine builders who want to export beyond North America to the rest of the world," Evans says.
For small exporters, everything from commissioning to ongoing support can come with huge questions. Often, commissioning and support have been addressed by putting a technician from the home office on an international flight. Internet access makes it possible to eliminate the cost and time spent on this inefficient solution.
With many machines, it’s possible to diagnose problems from the home office. These companies can team up with partners that have global offices. The partners can provide support personnel who can take the necessary actions to get equipment running. In some instances, technicians without specialized training can simply replace parts. Other times, companies will want to train a technician or two on the nuances of their equipment. Either way, leveraging an existing sales and support presence saves plenty of time and expense.
Support issues must be addressed when the equipment is being developed. Exporters need to be sure they understand local preferences so they design in popular components. “If you’re shipping to Germany, NEMA products aren’t a good idea because spare parts won’t be readily available,” Evans says.
It might seem that as volumes grow, the headaches will decline. But that’s not always the case. When only one or two machines are exported, combining equipment from different countries is fairly straightforward. But when suppliers go beyond low volume custom builds, the cost of ownership expands. Working with a supplier that has international operations can then become a big benefit.
International suppliers can work with manufacturers to develop product specifications that can be issued to machine builders around the world. That ensures that when machines from different suppliers come together to form a production line they have common components, reducing costs of ownership for the life of that production line. Support staff would then see a familiar look and feel when opening control panels and software programs inside the controls elements. Early consideration of this simple step in the planning of a project will help get the system into the field in less time. “If we can shave a couple days or weeks off a project, we can save our customers money,” Evans says.
Though the shift to the Euro has eliminated some of the complexity of international sales, currency exchange can still be a complex issue, one that can be a major challenge for companies with limited exports. When these companies have a need for services outside their home region, regional staffers can assist, making it simple to provide cost estimates for something like getting a repairman to a site in another country by a given date and pay in home currency. These local offices can also serve as a way to establish a relationship with customers, leveraging the cultural experiences of regional staffers.
In many areas, that cultural knowledge extends to speaking the language. What’s often a major issue becomes an even greater challenge when manufacturers are in a real or virtual meeting with a customer from one country and a supplier or two from other countries. “We had a customer meeting recently where people were speaking Spanish, French, German and Swahili,” Evans says. “We’re Siemens, we can do that!”
Whether you are an OEM sending machines around the world, or a manufacturer challenged by trying to find spare parts from a company that doesn’t have a local presence in your country, Siemens GloBiz can help you turn your next challenge into a success.
Click here for more information on how Siemens can benefit you on a global scale.
If you have an immediate need for global support, contact Malcolm Evans at 770-871-3869 or firstname.lastname@example.org.