Editor’s Note: Karen Florschuetz, formerly of Siemens AG, Power and Gas, was named Vice President and General Manager, Americas Operations for the Dresser-Rand business in 2015. In this role, she manages operations in Olean and Painted Post, New York; Burlington, Iowa; and India. She is also responsible for the former Siemens compressor business operations in Houston, Texas and Mount Vernon, Ohio, which are now part of the Americas Operations.
insights editor: So here we are, a year and a half post-acquisition. What do you feel has been our most significant achievement thus far?
KF: I feel we have done a great job coming together from two different companies with two different cultures. Despite different perspectives on acquiring and executing a business, our people have been open and transparent. As an example, our rotor manufacturing experts from Duisburg, Germany and the former Dresser-Rand facilities in Olean, New York in the United States and Le Havre, France came together and shared their expertise to create a joint manufacturing strategy. Using value stream mapping, the teams examined the production processes at each of the facilities. This helped define a shared manufacturing strategy amongst the facilities. Are we there yet? No. We must continue to align our processes and our way of working, especially in this challenging market environment. But I am confident that together with the bigger Siemens family we will achieve this.
insights editor: Who is your role model and why?
KF: Honestly, there is not just one role model. I admire Steve Jobs as a visionary. He changed the way we use mobile and smart phones and made us feel “naked” if we leave home or work without our smart devices. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is a strong country leader. She has a clear plan and vision to build strategic alliances. And she continues following her vision, even when times are tough. I respect Joachim Loew as a soccer coach. He formed and led 23 soccer players – the “Jo Bloggs” – to become a unified team that believes in themselves and worked hard together to become world champions. I “steal with pride” ideas from different role models!
insights editor: Manufacturing technologies are becoming more and more sophisticated. Describe the advantages and challenges this creates for today’s manufacturers.
KF: Ten years ago, no one could imagine that one day we would use our smart phones and devices to take pictures. Companies like Canon and Nikon would never have guessed that one day most people would no longer buy cameras. Similar changes are happening in our industry. As we approach the digital age, we are linking people with intelligent machine tools in our factories and creating automated orders with suppliers. The new media enable us to use our smart devices for live meetings, remote monitoring or 3D simulation presentations on-site with our clients. In turn, manufacturing is becoming more and more technology-driven. This digital manufacturing concept will drive down cycle times and costs and further improve product quality. We need to embrace these new technologies and make sure we remain agile so as not to be left behind. And not everything can be done by or through machines. We will never be able to – nor should we – replace the work and ingenuity of people. But digital manufacturing will augment their work.
insights editor: What differences have you noticed between operations in Europe and in America? How about similarities?
KF: The core of manufacturing is more or less the same all over the world. The main differences are the current stages of manual vs. machine driven, series production vs. customized products or automated production and the degree of digitalization. And we are seeing more digitalization, just-in-time-processes, lean methods, etc. make their way into manufacturing. Keeping up with technology is important; becoming digital, but also, too, seeing the pros and the cons of these changes. From my point of view technology should support us – not rule us.
insights editor: How are employees, in general, reacting to the changes?
KF: We introduced “Let’s Talk” roundtable sessions this year at several of our Operations. We took a pragmatic approach and engaged our leaders with employees. Our main goal was to listen to what employees had to say and answer all the questions we could – and to take back those we couldn’t and find the answers. It helped put us in touch with the company and our employees “on the ground.” We want our employees to develop their entrepreneur mindset and help grow our business. The results should serve as important input to our long-range plan.
insights editor: How do you define “earning client loyalty for life” and what does that look like to you?
KF: For me, “earning client loyalty for life” means making sure that our clients feel they are well served and treated fairly. This way, they will come back to us. So how do we do that? We deliver what we promise, on time and within budget. We are transparent with our clients when things are not going as planned. Operational excellence is critical to earning client loyalty. The Olean Operations leadership team has done an excellent job of setting performance expectations and holding themselves and the Operations’ employees accountable. Early in the year, a client’s Supplier Quality team conducted a Quality management system audit of our Olean Operation. The audit team complimented the Operation’s safety and operational excellence initiatives and was impressed with the 6S processes applied in the factories. As further testament, this past spring the Buffalo Business First business journal selected the Olean Operations as the winner of its western New York 2016 Manufacturing Award in the category of Operational Excellence. In short, we need to fulfill our commitments to our clients, and in turn I expect our clients to honor their commitments with us.
insights editor: You’ve held VP positions for 10 years. How do you stay motivated?
KF: Do you remember the movie “Modern Times” with Charlie Chaplin? Do you remember the scene where he is in the machine but happy? The guy had the privilege to be part of a fascinating, changing world. And so do I. It is a privilege to be able to be part of tomorrow’s world and to be able to shape it – this motivates me. Safety, too, motivates me. As a VP and GM of Americas operations, safety is always top of mind. For me, safety means not cutting any corners. I want each person to return home from work safe and in the same condition which they arrived, every day.
insights editor: To end, what is your credo (or motto) in life?
KF: Carpe diem! ▪