Siemens Industry's New Automation Organization

Siemens Industry's New Automation Organization

 
By Bill Lydon - Contributing Editor
 
Interview with Raj Batra President, Industry Automation Division
I recently had the opportunity to interview Raj Batra who was appointed President of the Industry Automation Division for Siemens U.S. in October 2009.  Batra was formerly vice president, Automation & Motion, for Siemens Energy & Automation. The Industry Automation division, based in Alpharetta, Ga., encompasses automation products including programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and controls for discrete and process automation.
 
Since 2007, Siemens has been globally aligning its businesses into three sectors: Healthcare, Energy and Industry. The reorganization of the U.S. operation is a continuation of this global re-alignment. The newly formed Siemens Industry, Inc. in the U.S. is under the leadership of CEO Daryl D. Dulaney.  Siemens Industry will provide its U.S. customers with solutions for industry and infrastructure, with integrated automation technologies as well as industry-specific solutions.
 
In this new role, Batra is responsible for overall planning and direction of all Industry Automation division activities in the United States.
 
Batra explained that the global realignment of the company started in Germany about two years ago. “The reorganization really has a lot to do with how the world is changing and what we call our megatrends.” The megatrends are urbanization (worldwide trend but not in the U.S.), healthcare, green movement (CO2 emissions, etc.), and the new age of electricity (wind, solar, etc.). “The reasons to shift and align our portfolio are to better serve customers impacted by these trends.”  Batra emphasized that Siemens has core technologies to solve the problems in all these areas. 
 
Batra highlighted a number of factors that he feels puts Siemens in a good position in the United States.
 
U.S. Market Attitude Shift
Batra views the installed base in North America as a major opportunity, “particularly from one of our major competitors,” says Batra. “A very important trend to capitalize on in the United States is the aging infrastructure in plants. If you want flexible manufacturing systems in plants with aging legacy systems (25-30 or more years old), you need to take the next step.” One of Batra’s key points for U.S. manufacturers to be globally competitive is the use of the latest technologies to improve operations and flexibility.  “One thing that I have never seen before in my Siemens career is customers’ willingness to entertain technology discussion as the basis for their (purchase) decisions,” says Batra.   He further commented that customers are becoming smarter buyers of automation and controls. Batra elaborated, “Based on cost, efficiency, trying to compete, and being better than your neighbor, companies now want the best technology solution in their manufacturing facility.” “For the first time ever, I am seeing customers that have never opened up specifications, opening up today - in essence, letting us engage in a head to head technology battle. That is exactly the position we want to be in the United States.”
 
Regarding this change, Batra observed that in the past, management cut off technology discussions. “In the past you could have the best technology available and you would hit that frozen middle (management) in the plant.” I asked for his thoughts on what is creating this shift? Batra indicated that the old way of doing business has given way to a better analysis by manufacturers of what will drive productivity for the business. Manufacturing management people also have a better understanding of technology today.
 
Process Industries
Batra noted that Siemens has been gaining process industry market share in 2009 and instrumentation has been the least impacted business during the recession. Batra also pointed out that Siemens has a scalable architecture for the process industries, from lab applications to large DCS.
 
System Integrators
Siemens has a certified system integrator program and Batra sees tremendous value in professional system integrators. “When we have integrators that put the technology to the test, they see the ability to improve quality, productivity, and efficiency,” says Batra. “We see a number of integrators clamoring to be Siemens system integrators, which is a good indicator that our market positioning and visibility are improving for both discrete and process manufacturing.” Siemens is an active member in the Control Systems Integrators Association.  
 
Control & Automation Platforms
Siemens has a broad line of controls including Nano PLCs, high end PLCs, process DCSs, and CNCs - that are all applied in a wide range of applications. He emphasized that the Siemens’ portfolio of products is vast and can serve a wide range of applications. “We have the flexibility to not reinvent products for a specific industry,” Batra explained.    “We are not creating one offs or black boxes to serve industries. Instead, these industry-specific solutions are adaptations with programming and how we set the systems up.”
 
Communications
“We feel the infrastructure growth will be much greater than the PLC business,” says Batra. He indicated that users are becoming more educated and selective about communications, including the growth of wireless for control and safety applications as people become more comfortable with the technology. 
 
Batra says, “Real-time industrial Ethernet as a common and flat topology for plants has a lot of inherent benefits. Customers are looking for flat topologies that address everything they have to do. What we leverage is really PROFINET/PROFIBUS - around an entire portfolio of automation and high speed machine control technology. Because the topology is not just built for a PLC, but for the spectrum of the Siemens portfolio, we offer customers flexibility.”   Batra emphasized that this strategy solves all customer applications so they do not have to own and support multiple network technologies.
 
Based on “consultative” discussions Siemens has with manufacturers, communications is becoming a major reliability issue.  “50 plus percent of downtime issues in factories are caused by network and interoperability issues,” says Batra.  Batra stated that network reliability and the diagnostics built into Siemens products are an important consideration for increasing system up time.
 
Software
Siemens’ software direction is to provide a common HMI and control configuration software with the new Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) portal offering. This integrated approach simplifies engineering and startup and was first introduced in the SIMATIC S7-1200.
 
My closing thought
Batra is clearly enthusiastic about Siemens and the technology the company brings to the U.S. market. It will be interesting to watch this new organization.