"I have some good news," Helmuth Ludwig, CEO of Siemens Industries USA, told a crowd of young engineers and manufacturers last week. "We are on the path to recovery."

The U.S., he told them, added 600,000 manufacturing jobs in the last year. Which is important.

"But," he added, "Much more important is that we are on the verge of a complete new era for manufacturing."

This opening was much more than just a shot of optimism to warm up the crowd – though it certainly did that. These points define the central thesis that guides Ludwig, and his company, through the post-recession recovery and toward what Ludwig sees as the next manufacturing boom.

It is also the basic outline for the American manufacturing renaissance.

Manufacturing is officially on the rebound – jobs are returning, companies are reshoring and retooling, and the U.S. is slowly reclaiming its global position.

This hasn't been an easy – or much less steady – process. And what's more, the industry that is returning is not the same one that left.

Today's manufacturing is a digitally-infused, high-tech industry. It has different demands and different process than the manufacturing of the past, and it is producing a new breed of products by a whole new breed of savvy manufacturers.

This is the American renaissance: it's not just the return of manufacturing to the U.S., it is, as Ludwig said, an emergence of a new era of manufacturing.

There have been many voices singing this song over the last few years, but Helmuth Ludwig's has remained the loudest.

Since taking control at Siemens Industry in 2011, Ludwig has been tirelessly championing the progress of the American manufacturing renaissance both in his company and throughout the industry.

IW caught up with him recently to see what it takes to lead such a movement and where he is taking it next.


 

Q: You have been really leading the conversation in the industry about the "renaissance" for several years now. What do you see happening that is so exciting?

A: I believe there is an enormous opportunity in the U.S.

That's based on lower energy cost, it's based on labor costs that are more and more adjusting in other countries.

On top of this, and most importantly, is the software strength here in the U.S. that manufacturing will take up and will lead the world economy.

In my conversations, I always go back to this statistic: When you add up the revenue for the 100 largest software companies in the world, 79% of it comes from U.S.-headquartered software companies.

That means 21% includes everything out of Germany Israel, China, India, France, you name it.  But 79% is from here in the U.S. That's a deep cultural strength.

Coincidentally, when you look today at manufacturing, the real innovation that is happening is all driven by software. It is driven by software on the manufacturing floor, and most importantly, when you connect the manufacturing floor up into the design part of the company. To bring those two worlds consistently together, it can only be done by software.

And there, I believe the U.S. is in an incredible position.

My point is, we talk about energy efficiency, the low cost of energy in the U.S., this is all true, but there is something else.

There is a deep, cultural element of software development here. The 79% says how strong it is.

It is now only a matter of using that strength to help grow and develop manufacturing.