Robert Hardt, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with Siemens Canada, was at St. F.X. Jan. 17 for an afternoon “fireside chat” session with selected students and then an evening public talk at the Schwartz School of Business auditorium.
Siemens Canada is a global company that, in Canada, employs 4,800 people in industry, energy, health care and infrastructure sectors.
“For more than 100 years Siemens Canada has stood for engineering excellence, innovation, quality and reliability,” the opening message from the company’s website reads. “Siemens technology in the fields of electrification, automation and digitalization helps make real what matters to Canadians.”
Talking to reporters in between his sit-down with the students and the later talk at the auditorium, Hardt gave a brief description of what he planned to cover for his evening audience.
“How is technology influencing our markets? How do we react to that? What leadership is necessary? What skills are necessary? And I’ll be talking a little bit about how we see the future and what we see as potential solutions; not for the entire topics facing the world but more on technology … what are the major trends and how do we respond to that,” Hardt said.
Singling out digitalization as a trend, Hardt went into more detail about its growing place in the world.
“It’s really the integration of the IT world in all aspects of our life,” he said, offering a definition for digitalization.
“Be it what we have in our pockets, with smart phones. Now in the industrial sector and with most services; we see it in banking, insurance, manufacturing. In your personal life – in your buildings. We see it in the energy field. Digitalization is everywhere and it’s all connected together.
“I think that’s the megatrend so we have to, as corporations but also as societies, find the right solutions.”
Hardt said it’s important to forecast what work places will look like in “two, three or five years” time.
“And how we, as societies and companies, find answers for the skill development for not only the employees we have in our companies now, but for the young people, such as we have here at St. F.X.
“How we can offer them the right programs to address those challenges and be part of the solutions.”
He talked about the production of high-end, innovative products and making them accessible to the general public.
“When you have a product that is not accessible or affordable, you will not sell it,” Hardt said bluntly.
“So the topic is really how to produce it, and do so in a very productive way, and make it accessible for the customers, clients and consumers.
“Profit expectations … you have to be the first mover. When you have a new product and are ahead of the innovation cycle, you have a better price point. Once it’s commoditized, your price position is going down, then, of course, you’re in a position where you have to bring in more-and-more productivity and so on, and, maybe, move on to the next product.”
He said the “key” is innovation.
“Innovation in your existing products and, of course, on top of that, you need new products and services around that. When you’re not able to continually innovate, you’ll disappear from the market.”
Hardt praised the Antigonish university.
“It’s amazing when you see the history of St. F.X. and learn about that … when it was founded, who founded it,” he said.
“Also to see the success of the university; the reputation the university has, its alumni … just how many great Canadians came from this university.
“And then, for someone like me, who came to Canada 10 years ago, you see a community of 5,000 inhabitants and then you have a university with 5,000, it’s quite an achievement.”