Jumpstarting success

Siemens Corp. President and CEO Eric Spiegel has good reasons for giving $440 million in software and training to Youngstown State University, and the least of them might be his Mahoning Valley roots.

For certain, Spiegel is proud of his local heritage, including grandfathers Philip Kotmier and Allan Spiegel, who worked years at Youngstown Sheet & Tube and Wean United. His father, Allan Spiegel, was a local businessman who had owned and operated businesses like Olympia Sporting Goods and Commercial Insulation, Spiegel, 56, recalled last week during a phone conversation from his downtown Washington office.

The Poland Seminary High School graduate received his bachelor’s degree as a Harvard Scholar from Harvard University and his MBA from Amos Tuck Graduate School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College before eventually taking over the helm in 2010 of Siemens, a company with worldwide revenue last year of more than $100 billion – $22 billion in the U.S. alone.

Still, when he makes his way back home a few times each year to visit relatives, Spiegel pays close attention to what’s going on here.

“I grew up learning a lot about the steel industry,” Spiegel said. And while he hasn’t forgotten that, he knows it’s not his grandfathers’ steel industry that will propel his hometown into the future. That might just happen with some help from Siemens.

“Shale is nice and will give the community a real boost, but longer term, this software-led manufacturing, we think, is going to be the next wave, and we think Youngstown-Warren is going to be well positioned in the next wave,” Spiegel said. “And that’s why we gave the in-kind donations to Youngstown State.”

Landing the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown, one of just five federally funded private-public facilities in the country, was a big factor in Spiegel’s decision to have his company give its own boost to the area’s growth.

A local resurgence of traditional manufacturing, like Vallourec Star’s pipe mill and others related to the natural gas and oil drilling industry is important, but Spiegel knows to be competitive on a global market, high-tech, advanced manufacturing is the key.

Siemens Corp., a U.S. subsidiary of Siemens AG, remains well positioned in all levels of manufacturing. Described as a global powerhouse in electronics and electrical engineering, it has 370,000 employees in 190 countries.

Among those is Service Guide, a Cortland-based company that services manufacturing facilities. Service Guide was purchased by Siemens in July with a hope that Service Guide will provide Siemens access to new metals and technology customers being serviced by the company.

In the longterm, though, Spiegel is confident advanced manufacturing will trigger what he believes will be a whole new industrial revolution.

Among the many benefits, Spiegel said, software-led manufacturing allows designers to do real-world testing without prototypes. NAMII, he said, is helping to lead that development through experimentation.

“You have a lot of companies putting money into it because it’s really going to revolutionize the way we think about manufacturing.”

As a big supporter of education, Spiegel puts the responsibility on teachers to ensure students have the skills needed to compete. What many call the “skills gap,” Spiegel refers to as a “training gap,” because he says the onus should be on the people who provide the training, not the people being trained.

To help achieve that goal, Siemens in May contributed to YSU $440 million in software and training known as product lifecycle management, or PLM. As one of the largest Siemens’ donations ever, the cutting edge technology will allow students in YSU’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, to be trained and ahead of the curve when competing for jobs in more than 70,000 companies worldwide that already use the software.

PLM programs can virtually design and simulate products for faster and more cost-effective manufacture. It also has the capability of determining, working through and perfecting design errors, without the need for protoyping.

Excitement about the possibilities of the software, already set up and available at 200 work stations on campus, was apparent Friday when two officials from Siemens spent time introducing the program’s capabilities to about three dozen STEM College faculty members at YSU’s Moser Hall.

Noting the growing relationship with NAMII, Jim Menego, vice president of strategic alliances for Siemens, said the company already is looking to establish connections among the company’s large customer base in Ohio and Pennsylvania and STEM College students at YSU.

“Our focus is to make you very, very successful,” Menego told the faculty Friday. “Manufacturing of the future, we know, is going to drive our economy, drive better wages, and in the end, drive our future success.”

He echoed Spiegel’s comments.

“Employers are looking for areas where they are developing the right sets of skills, and that is one big advantage that YSU and some other schools have with software with a STEM focus. That’s going to give Youngstown a leg up,” Spiegel said.

Eric Planey, a Regional Chamber vice president who helped drive the contribution, had the foresight to see the endless possibilities being created for local students with access to the software.

He said, for example, he was quick to introduce YSU STEM College Dean Martin Abraham during Thursday’s Utica Shale conference to a top executive from FMC Technologies, a global energy industry company that provides oil services equipment utilizing Siemens’ PLM software.

“We are going to have a pool of talent that is completely trained on it,” Planey said. “It becomes a big marketing tool.”

Abraham knows that marketing tool just might provide the jumpstart that the Mahoning Valley needs to attract the big employers.

“I don’ know any reason why we shouldn’t be able to make the transition to a more high-tech community. We have to change the mindset, and I think we are starting to do that,” Abraham said. “One of the things we are lacking in Youngstown are major corporation headquarters.”

That takes time, and both Abraham and Spiegel agreed that creating a talent pool is the right way to start.

“We are going to have to jumpstart this. We want to see more young people coming to Youngstown to school, you want to see more businesses coming here,” Spiegel said. “When we look for places to invest, we look for places with a lot of skills for advanced manufacturing.”