In a Siemens plant in Lebanon, a white banner hangs crisply from the rafters of the building. The banner phrase is simple, but captures what the Siemens crew strives to achieve each day: “We keep America up and running.”
Siemens site manager Brea Brumby and her team of 55 employees run the company’s first facility in the U.S. dedicated to industrial personal computer production. Just south of Dayton, the plant — located at 4170 Columbia Road — is home to one of the company’s “digital factories.” There, the Siemens team started producing the Icomputers in April.
Siemens Corp. is a U.S. subsidiary of Germany-headquartered Siemens AG — a global powerhouse for engineering, technology and energy innovation. In the U.S. alone, the company reported a $22.4 billion revenue, including $5.5 billion in exports, and employs 50,000 people in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Brumby had just nine months to launch the IPC assembly project in what she called an “aggressive timeline.”
“It was an incredibly challenging project, but the team put in place to bring it to fruition was just amazing,” Brumby said. “Everybody had a common goal in mind. We had a diverse group around the table that brought creative ideas for overcoming road blocks.”
IPCs are industrially hardened computers made for manufacturing environments like automotive factories and refineries. The “workhorse” machines provide productivity to plant floors and manufacturing systems, Brumby said. Each order can be customized to what the customer needs in their workplace.
By adding the U.S. assembly center, the company will reduce delivery lead times for the product by 40 percent. In fiscal year 2016, the location will produce an estimated 1,000 computers, Brumby explained. The computers go through the same protocols as units produced in Germany, including 50 tests.
Prior to assuming the IPC assembly function, the plant was a Siemens repair facility and continues to support the company in that role. But the demand of industrial personal computers continues to rise, and the company wanted to quicken the ordering process for U.S. customers. The new project has not brought new jobs to the area, but Brumby said “that opportunity could unfold in the future.”
“This was a really a customer-driven initiative,” Brumby said. “We do expect production numbers to grow by being closer to our customers.”
Brumby manages operations and oversees the portfolio for the facility. She began her tenure at Siemens in 2012 in Johnson City, Tenn. before accepting the Lebanon management position. Dawning a white coat and safety glasses, Brumby frequently walks the factory floor and checks in with employees on the ground.
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She recognizes her role as a female leader in the industrial world is somewhat of an anomaly. Brumby said she sees an opportunity for women in the manufacturing and industrial environments. She advises women in the industrial fields to spend time understanding what their unique skill set is — and exploiting those skills. Sometimes that means moving laterally — it is not straight ladder upward, she said.
“I really can’t say I’ve had too many challenges working in the male-dominated field because it’s just tremendously rewarding,” Brumby said.
In 2011, Siemens set the goal of increasing the proportion of women in managerial positions from 10 percent o 12 or 13 percent by 2015. By 2014, the level had already risen to just under 13 percent. The overall proportion of women at Siemens in Germany was around 22 percent in 2014 – and 24 percent worldwide, according to a Siemens official.
“I think men and women really approach tasks with a different set of life experiences and perspectives,” she said. “When you have both voices at the table, the output is just so much more rich and innovative.”
Born and raised in small-town North Carolina, Brumby has spent her career leading and supporting others. As a child, her father coined the mantra, “If you’re not failing occasionally, you’re not taking enough risks.”
She practices that advice in her role as a manager, empowering employees to innovate and take “calculated risks.” She said the Lebanon employees are very tenured — standing on the front line and addressing technical problems in intelligent, productive ways.