If you want to chart the future course of technology around the wo
rld, make sure to take a reading from Siemens. With operations in 140 countries and some 385,000 employees, the German industrial giant is racing to capture a healthy share of the most promising markets and technologies. Here, in brief, is how Siemens views the world of technology--
Booming Southeast Asia. In the last decade, Europe's economy grew by an average of less than 3% a year and Japan's 4%. In Southeast Asia--excluding Japan--annual growth averaged nearly 10%, a pace that should continue in the coming years. Siemens already has 20,000 employees in the Asia-Pacific region, and is increasing its presence there. In mainland China, which has an enormous need for automation and telecommunications products--two Siemens specialties--the German company has already established 30 joint ventures.
Europe's emerging nations. Besides encouraging more economic integration among the developed nations of Europe, Siemens is looking for opportunities in the emerging economies of Central and Eastern Europe. Siemens expects solid growth in such countries as the Czech Republic, where hourly wages are only a tenth of neighboring Germany's, and in Hungary, where engineering salaries are a third of Germany's. Demand for products and infrastructure in Europe's emerging nations is tremendous, but limited financial resources will prevent these countries from growing as fast as Southeast Asia.
Hottest technologies. With the multimedia explosion, Siemens expects robust markets for such products as intelligent phones, fax machines, and new audio and video systems. Also hot: automotive electronics and automation products, such as industrial controls.
Technical alliances. To fully exploit such markets, not even a company the size of Siemens can go it alone. For example, Siemens has joined forces with Toshiba and IBM to develop first generation 256-megabit chips. To lay the groundwork for a global information highway, Siemens, Sun Microsystems, and Scientific Atlanta are working together on IMMXpress™, a worldwide, multimedia network architecture.
Like all successful companies, Siemens also is stressing the need to streamline its operations, boost productivity, and speed product development. It recently employed a small skunkworks team to develop an important new industrial control system in just two years--versus the five or six years it used to take. Siemens now replaces two thirds of its products with a new-generation model within five years. Ten years ago, barely half of the company's products were less than five years old.
Globalization, hot products, speed--that's Siemens strategy to compete in the '90s. And no matter what the size of your company, it's a good blueprint for success.