#FutureMaker: Ramona Schindler

Catalyst - Ramona Schindler
Catalyst - Ramona Schindler

The manufacturing technology industry is currently in flux as it seeks to find its way in the digital world. For me, digitalization is about connection—in business, the number of machines connected through digitalization is increasing exponentially and is a necessary function for any manufacturer.   Being a Siemens FutureMaker also is about connection—a strong network of talented people who want to change something is empowering. This includes breaking down barriers and working together for one Siemens versus for ourselves. Connection is a powerful word.   I’ve had an interest in mechanical engineering as far back as I can remember. I used to work with my dad and grandpa on fixing things, changing tires—doing all sorts of hands-on work you’d equate with mechanical engineering. And I love numbers. So working in the machine tool field professionally just fits—it feels like a good friend. Turning my love of engineering and math into something practical has always been important to me.   I got into digitalization with a little luck, starting in a machine tool systems group at Siemens in my native Germany. Right away I felt the spirit and energy in digitalization for machine tools, which have been around for a long time with no real significant innovation to boast about. But digitalization changed all that. The more experienced people I worked with at the time had such great ideas—digitalization helped us take those ideas to a new level. Transferring the knowledge of the previous generation into the current one also was very exciting to me.   My digitalization expertise has matured through Siemens projects in Process Development, R&D and a 10-month stint in South Korea, where I managed a team to set up a digitalization demonstration factory. I truly relished the opportunity to be a part of the innovation effort in South Korea, as well as to experience the adventure of a new culture. Now I am living and working in the U.S., which is further contributing to my global experience base.   As I continue working with and educating customers about the importance of digitalization in manufacturing, I’ve observed some things. First, my initial contacts with them are always quick and open—everybody wants to learn about digitalization. Second, after that initial contact they need some time to think about what digitalization means to their business internally. It’s more about who needs to be involved, how does it affect my workers, what do I want to achieve and how do I break down the internal silos versus how much will it cost.   I think digitalization is about taking what you are experiencing in your personal life and applying it to industry. For example, we can have one application to control various parts of our homes (turning on lights or changing temperature or locking doors). We want to take this concept into our working environment to help things run more smoothly and make everything easier for people to handle. Which do you prefer—reading a manual to learn how to do something or watch a YouTube video? I suspect the latter is your answer. Again, it’s about connection—bringing the world a step closer together and being more cooperative.   It’s vitally important for me as a woman in the male-dominated machine tool field to be a role model to other women. I believe this will improve diversity in the industry. I’m passionate about mentoring female university-level students in mathematics. Some of my former students are working for Siemens now and I am especially proud to have played a role in their success.   In my day-to-day work I believe it is important to network—to share experiences, cut down barriers and connect to other people. I’m more than happy to share professional insights over lunch or a Facetime call because being a FutureMaker also is about paying it forward.   I’m looking forward to continue contributing to the Siemens digitalization effort and helping others understand why, for me, mechanical engineering and math are both just very good friends.   *Ramona Schindler was among 30 industry frontrunners recognized by Plant Engineering magazine (Sept. 2018 issue) as an “Engineering Leader Under 40.”