Executive Outlook 2013: Invest In Opportunities, Regardless Of Headwinds

0813eoskfAs a company with a cultural legacy of taking advantage of overseas opportunities, we’re excited by the long-term prospects for business in the United States. There’s a growing re-industrialization that brings extended value to the economy, a strong knowledge-park and university-based research network and energy-cost advantages from shale gas and other domestic resources. While many companies are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the recovery, we tend to focus on existing opportunities, regardless of current political or macro-economic winds. There are longer-term forces at play: the need for improved productivity, energy efficiency and reduced environmental impact. Companies must continue to invest in these areas, but the thresholds for payback and investment will vary.

At SKF, we invest in product and manufacturing developments that will lower those thresholds and allow our customers to derive greater value from their assets: We offer them ways to reduce the environmental impact of their products or operations, whether through reduced energy use and CO2 emissions or greater material and resource efficiency. A good example of this is our magnetic bearing and permanent magnet motor system for wastewater treatment plants. Part of our growing BeyondZero portfolio, it allows aerators to operate with a 40% energy savings and lower noise levels. Moreover, it doesn’t require a special tax credit or incentive to provide a solid value proposition to plant operators. 

To better support our critical R&D efforts, SKF has announced plans for a global technical center in the U.S. that will complement our center in Utrecht, Netherlands, and join our recently established centers in other growth regions—namely India and China. This will ensure that we don’t miss the unique needs of innovative customers in North America, while facilitating and expanding our partnerships with leading U.S. universities. In addition, our Aerospace group recently launched the SKF Aerospace NA Innovation Center at Penn State’s Behrend’s Knowledge Park in Erie, PA, to work directly with student researchers. 

Actions like these are just two ways to help break through the “logjam” that this year’s Executive Outlook questions referenced. Specifically, they’ll help us address a need for engineering and manufacturing talent and let us work on sustained recruitment and hiring efforts to attract the best and the brightest. 

An historical obstacle, though, is a general perception that mechanical engineering (as one example) may seem “unexciting” to some candidates. We in the business know nothing could be further from the truth. To that end, SKF, along with other major U.S. companies, has agreed to open our doors during October for educational visits by students, to help them learn what manufacturing facilities do—and how they do it with the support of many skilled individuals. Visiting young people will be able to witness firsthand the process of raw materials turning into finished products, and, for some, a spark of interest will ignite. In the meantime, let’s all agree to open our doors to new ideas and new ways of working—and also open our checkbooks to support innovation. The resulting activity will stimulate hearts, minds and the economy. It’s an investment that we at SKF are sure will pay off. MT

More Executive Outlooks:

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Enrique Santacana, President & CEO, ABB North America

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William J. Stevens, President & CEO, Motion Industries

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Steven P. Richman, President, Milwaukee Tool Corporation

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Poul Jeppesen, President and CEO, SKF USA Inc.

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Ralf Kraemer, CEO, Klüber Lubrication North America

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Mike Laszkiewicz, Vice President & General Manager, Power Control Business, Rockwell Automation, and Chair, Manufacturing Council

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Jay A. Burnette, President, Waukesha Bearings Corporation

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Rich Heppe, President, Industrial Motors, Nidec Motor Corporation

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Steve Sonnenberg, President, Emerson Process Management

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Wes Pringle, President, Fluke Corporation