Posted at 1:17 PM
When they got home from the steel mills, my grandfathers’ overalls would be covered with grease. Their stories made it clear that the work wasn’t just dirty, but also physically demanding and dangerous. Yet as tough as those jobs were, I also understood that they paid well and helped my grandfathers reach the middle class. Which is why I remember thinking, growing up: One day I’d like to work in the steel industry, too.
But before I was old enough to even apply, the mills closed. A lot of U.S. manufacturing jobs moved to other countries, and boy did this hit places like Youngstown, Ohio, my hometown, really hard.
This memory hit me back in 2010 when I joined Siemens USA and visited our manufacturing facilities. I realized, for one, that my grandfathers would be really proud to see me working for a company that’s helping to reinvigorate manufacturing in places like Youngstown and across the U.S. And second, these were not at all my grandfathers’ manufacturing plants!
Our factory floors were clean, with much of them run by robots, lasers, and computers. Screwdrivers and wrenches had been replaced with iPads, signifying a rapid transition from traditional shop floor roles – defined more by repetitive tasks – to design, engineering, operations and analytics positions.
For National Manufacturing Day, we are celebrating the men and women of Siemens – people like test technician Alton Purcell (see photo) and project manager Crystal Cristescu – whose talent, skills, and ingenuity are reinventing manufacturing into one of the most sophisticated, highly skilled, forward-looking and innovative areas of business in the world today.
Growing up, Crystal was intrigued by manufacturing but it wasn’t her first career option. She saw herself succeeding in business, carrying a briefcase and working in an office. But as her engineering studies took off in college, Crystal decided that manufacturing would be more fun, more hands-on. She was excited by the possibility of getting to design something on a computer screen and to see her drawings come together on the factory floor.
At Siemens, her first glimpse of new factory floor technology was a robot that efficiently sorted goods in the warehouse while people were home sleeping. Since then she’s learned new software programs that shorten the engineering process of smarter power products that are both more energy-efficient and reliable.
Crystal’s been able to progress in her career, too. She’s gone from engineering behind the scenes to working out in the field with customers, and aspires to one day reach a management position.
What really excites Crystal about her career, though, is the opportunity to contribute to the world around her by making real what matters. It could be providing a power solution to a paper mill that allows people to enjoy reading a real paperback book, or delivering power panels that put athletic fields back in play after it gets dark.
Crystal’s story is part of a series of Siemens employee profiles we’ll be sharing this month to celebrate National Manufacturing Day. To participate, follow @SiemensUSA on Twitter and use the hashtag #IMakeReal.
Together, let’s encourage more young people to see U.S. manufacturing not as the industry it used to be, but the industry it is and will be in the years ahead. Let’s inspire a tech-savvy generation to pursue the specific technical training that will open doors to jobs on the future factory floor … and even into America’s future middle class.