At the end of the dazzling IllumiNations laser and fireworks show seen by thousands of Americans each evening at Walt Disney’s Epcot Center theme park in Florida, what name appears in large illuminated letters on the park’s signature geodesic dome? Siemens.
Siemens' sponsorship of the popular show is part of a 12-year marketing and technology agreement that the Germany-based industrial powerhouse signed with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts USA in late 2005. And as noted by Raj Batra, vice president, Automation & Motion Division, for Alpharetta, Ga.-based Siemens Energy & Automation Inc. (SE&A), the deal is part of a broad effort to showcase Siemens technology and to help “Americanize” the Siemens brand.
It was no coincidence then, that Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort near Epcot was the site of this year’s Siemens Automation Summit. The June 12-15 users conference attracted more than 860 Siemens customers, solutions partners and employees, the company said.
“We are definitely trying to build brand awareness for Siemens overall in the United States,” confirmed Dennis Sadlowski, recently appointed SE&A president and chief executive officer, during an interview at the event with Automation World. The branding effort also includes Siemens ads in key business publications and on television, noted Sadlowski, who will assume his new role on July 1. But Sadlowski was also quick to add that on the industrial and automation side, the brand building is not just about ad placements and sponsorships, but is focused on “our ability to serve our customers.”
One point emphasized by Sadlowski, both in the interview and during a pre-conference presentation for press and analysts, is Siemens’ global size and breadth. In terms of revenues, Siemens Automation & Drives holds number one and number three positions worldwide in factory automation and process automation, respectively, he said. Over the past several years, the company has developed its ability to better serve its North American-based manufacturing customers on a global basis, he noted. When all other things are equal, according to Sadlowski, this global ability is increasingly driving the automation buying preferences of U.S.-based multinationals.
Sadlowski also stressed Siemens’ prowess in technology and innovation. “Year in and year out, we reinvest close to 6 percent of our global annual sales in R&D, for new products, new innovations and new opportunities to make an impact on our customers,” said Sadlowski. That spending, which amounted to more than $1 billion last year, is “two to three times what many of our American competitors invest as a percent of sales,” he declared, and is eight to 15 times more on a dollar basis.
The United States is Siemens’ largest single market, with some $21.4 billion in sales last year accounting for about 20 percent of the company’s overall revenues. While the automotive and homebuilding industry lately have been down, business in oil and gas, food and beverage, pharmaceutical and paper industries are picking up, Sadlowski said. The company has seen strong recent demand for motors and drives, particularly Siemens’ new line of energy efficient motors and medium-voltage drives that can help reduce manufacturers’ energy costs. General automation and motion categories are also seeing strong growth.
Sadlowski said the biggest question being pondered today by automation industry executives concerns “the general direction of the economy. There are clouds up there, so to speak. It’s only a question of whether they’re really going to bring water, or if and when,” he told Automation World. Sadlowski said that a combination of external and internally developed leading indicators used by Siemens show that the next six to nine months for the economy should be “relatively solid, maybe a little slowing growth, but still growing overall.” Beyond that, he indicated, it’s anybody’s guess.
Siemens Energy & Automation Inc.