Beginning her career with Siemens in Johnson City, Tennessee, Brea Brumby can remember the thing that stood out most vividly to her in the interview. Although she was already familiar with Siemens by then — in Johnson City, a city of about 66,000 people, Siemens is known as a top employer — Brumby had a chance to see the company’s reputation for innovation in a tangible way.
“As part of the walk through, I saw a wall of patents for original designs created by local employees from our community,” Brumby recalled. “I thought it would be so exciting to work for a company that actually designed and produced physical ‘things’ that improved productivity and automation.”
What Brumby couldn’t have guessed then was how directly she was going to have a hand in that production. Starting out at Siemens in a customer service leadership role, she ultimately made a career switch by moving into her current position as site manager of Siemens’ assembly and repair site in Lebanon, Ohio. And her work has never been more fulfilling. Recently, she shared with us what it’s like to be at the forefront of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” as well as the two misconceptions people hold around manufacturing careers that she wants to do away with.
Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role and how long have you been in this role?
I am site manager of the Siemens Repair and Assembly site in Lebanon, Ohio. I’ve been in the role for five years. What I really love about this role is the diversity of tasks and range of responsibility. As site manager, my responsibilities include planning, implementing and overseeing our site strategies. It’s my responsibility to ensure the daily operations of the plant run smoothly and are aligned with our long-term vision and strategy. It’s a great combination of project management, data analysis and people leadership.
How did you hear about Siemens, and what about it first made you want to join?
I began my career with Siemens in Johnson City, Tennessee, before relocating to Ohio. Johnson City is a small to mid-size city, and Siemens had a reputation within the community for being an excellent place of employment. What initially attracted me to Siemens was the culture of ingenuity. This was confirmed when I interviewed with the company and, as part of the walk through, I saw a wall of patents for original designs created by local employees from our community. I thought it would be so exciting to work for a company that actually designed and produced physical “things” that improved productivity and automation.
What projects or programs are you currently working on? What about this type of work most excites you?
While I was initially excited to be working for a company that actually designed and produced physical “things” that improved productivity and automation, I had no idea at the time that I would wind up in a role that did exactly that. I entered into a Siemens career in a customer service leadership position before taking a leap into my current role as site manager of our assembly and repair site. An exciting process that I oversaw was the implementation of the Siemens Industrial PC Assembly function. We were selected to be one of three assembly sites in the world to build these devices. It is genuinely exciting to watch all of these different concepts from order entry, logistics, supply chain, assembly and quality culminate at the end of an order and result in an actual product that is unique and customized to a specific customer’s needs. There is something incredibly fulfilling about being able to put your hands on a physical unit and know that you had a hand in its creation.
Tell me about the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and how Siemens is leading this initiative.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a concept that originated in Germany, around 2011, with the mission of implementing digital solutions that would revolutionize the manufacturing world with huge leaps in productivity and allow manufacturing to operate nimbly, quickly and with greater levels of customization in mass production. And fortunately, Siemens was perfectly positioned to be a major contributor, as Siemens had been working on a digitalization strategy for more than a decade. Concepts such as the Internet of Things (IoT), additive manufacturing, digitalization and the integrations of data and workflows, remote monitoring, and predictive analytics are all included in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Siemens is at the forefront of this initiative with a huge portfolio of solutions for almost every sector that offer flexible and scalable applications for new ways of working.
How does your work impact these efforts?
One of the exciting functions that takes place at our location is the assembly of the Siemens industrial computer. We are one of three authorized sites in the world to assemble the Siemens IPC. The Siemens industrial PC is the physical device that is the workhorse behind cyber-physical systems that allow manufacturing systems to perform sophisticated functions in complex applications. We are assembling these smart devices right here in the U.S. From a very simple box PC that is small enough to fit in an equipment cabinet to Panel PCs that incorporate a built-in touchscreen for programming and HMI functions, we can deliver a customized, configurable unit to our U.S. customers with rapid delivery from order to receipt.
Does Siemens provide any resources or programs to support women in your field?
Siemens offers a strong support system for women both in traditional ways and innovative ways. Traditional programs include a huge platform of learning and development programs in both an online and classroom setting, mentoring/job shadowing, and Women’s Networking groups. The more innovative ways in which Siemens supports women includes flexible work arrangements, “work from anywhere” roles and a culture of inclusion that is a common thread throughout the company. While all of the programs are available to anyone, they can be particularly helpful in attracting and retaining female talent.
What’s one misconception you think exists around manufacturing as an industry?
When we talk about manufacturing, I think many people have a tendency to visualize one of two extremes: either a factory from the industrial revolution that ran on steam and hard, sometimes unsafe, manual labor or an environment of only robotic machines. Neither is true. Today’s factory is a clean, safe, well-organized and highly automated environment. And while it is highly automated, people still play the most important role in the factory. Robotics and automation help factories unleash the full potential of people and turn ideas or observations into real concepts and improvements that meet customer demand.
What is your favorite aspect of the culture at Siemens?
Without a doubt, my favorite aspect of the culture at Siemens is the culture of ingenuity. Having a culture of ingenuity also means that you have a culture of inclusion because ingenious ideas arise out of open collaboration and exchange where everyone is invited to participate, and I love that Siemens embraces these concepts.
What advice do you have for other women who are beginning a career in manufacturing and/or tech?
Network far and wide, up and down and across divisions. Networking is not only a concept for identifying new career opportunities – it is a talent pool that you can tap into to exchange ideas, experiences and fill gaps in your own knowledge base. You are rarely going to tackle a challenge, be assigned a project or take on a new opportunity where you have every aspect of expertise to be successful, but with a strong network, you have a strong database of knowledge to consult with.
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