Siemens promo event on track

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Siemens, the $80.6 billion conglomerate based in Munich, had created a 1,000-foot train outfitted to display the capabilities of its Siemens Energy & Automation unit, which provides circuit protection and energy management systems, process control, industry software and integrated automation systems to industrial customers. The train was scheduled to make its North American debut at National Manufacturing Week, the Reed Exhibitions’ trade show that began in Chicago on Feb. 23.

But nature intervened. "Typhoon problems caused delays," said Thomas Kopanksi, VP-automation and motion division at Siemens Energy & Automation.

So Siemens diverted the freighter carrying the train to Hawaii and arranged for a massive cargo plane to airlift the train to the lower 48, where it was returned to the rails. After this bit of planes, trains and freighters, the "Exider," as Siemens dubbed the train, eventually arrived on time in Chicago.

For Siemens, its technology train was worth the extraordinary effort because it represents the company’s renewed commitment to the North American manufacturing market. Siemens holds a stronger position in the automation market worldwide than it does in the U.S., where it faces stiff competition from homegrown leaders such as Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation and its Allen-Bradley unit.

"For Siemens, this tour signals our commitment to the U.S market and our confidence in the U.S. economy," Kopanski said. "While some multinationals hint about exiting the U.S. market, we believe in U.S. manufacturing and are committed to this market in the long run."

Siemens’ Exider train is also an example of how many companies are taking a long, hard look at trade show expenditures. Many companies are no longer renewing annual booth contracts as a matter of course but only exhibiting when their marketing message is a big one.

Siemens, for instance, hadn’t appeared at National Manufacturing Week in four years. What drew the company back to this trade show was the opportunity to make a big splash.

The company had a huge booth of 7,000 square feet at the show. It promoted the train’s arrival with customers and prospects and, on the Monday morning that National Manufacturing Week opened, a few dozen people formed a line to take the nearly 90-minute tour of the train, which had been moved off the rails and onto the show floor.

Inside the 10 railcars that eventually stood on the show floor were showcases of Siemens factory automation products and services in action. One car, for instance, displayed a virtual golf ball factory. Other cars offered simulated applications in the pharmaceutical, chemical and automobile industries or recreated a simulated control room.

Siemens Energy & Automation in the U.S., which has its headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., has invested the largest share of its 2004 marketing budget in Exider.

During the past two years, the train traveled through Europe and China. It is scheduled to make nine more stops in the U.S.—Atlanta; Houston; Greer, S.C.; New York; Boston; Detroit; Los Angeles; San Francisco; and Seattle—and stops in both Mexico and Canada.

The company said the marketing effort has boosted sales along the way. After visits by the train, Siemens registered a 3% market share increase in Spain and boosted revenue $10.5 million in Great Britain.

In the U.S., Siemens’ chief competitors include Schneider Electric and GE Industrial Systems as well as Rockwell. Each of these companies had varying levels of participation in National Manufacturing Week, which was once a command performance for companies serving manufacturers. But the number of exhibitors has dwindled in recent years. This year, there were about 1,000, down from 1,375 in 2003.

Different approaches

Both GE Fanuc, a subbrand of GE Industrial Systems, and Schneider exhibited with partners: GE Fanuc with Microsoft Corp. and Schneider with Graybar, a distributor. Rockwell didn’t have a booth on the show floor. Instead, the company focuses on its own annual show, Automation Fair, which attracts about 10,000 customers and prospects.

Additionally, Rockwell produces regional shows it calls Complete Automation on the Move, which are hauled around the country by truck. The events are part trade show, part training event, said Matt Gonring, Rockwell VP-marketing and communications.

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