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艾默生CEO:解决中国食物浪费充满商机

Geoff Colvin 2013年03月15日

艾默生电气首席执行官大卫•法尔目前正在大刀阔斧地重塑公司的核心业务。他指出,在中国和印度这些地方,超过35%的食物都被浪费掉了,因为它们没有得到妥善的贮存或冷却。

    CEO的首要工作就是决定公司应该经营哪种生意,而艾默生电气公司(Emerson Electric)的大卫•法尔正在改弦更张。根据对全球趋势的看法,他决定加倍押注这样一种生意,即能够帮助全球制造商更高效、更精准生产产品的生意,同时把重点放在冷却技术之上——尤其是面向增长迅速的数据中心。法尔抛弃了前景较差的生意,甚至包括艾默生电气最初的电动机业务。

    过去59年中,今年58岁的大卫•法尔仅是艾默生电气公司(财富500强)聘请的第三位CEO,他在2000年接替了传奇的查克•奈特。法尔为人热情而健谈,最近对华尔街分析师有些出言不逊,不过在接受《财富》记者杰夫•科尔文采访时倒没有逾矩之举。他畅谈了一系列话题,包括:为什么不是每个人都应该上大学,重新调整公司方向的困难,中国碎污机等。以下是访谈摘要:

    问:美国制造业是一个热门话题,它的前景如何?

    答:美国正面临一次迎来制造业复兴的独特机遇。它并不意味着很多工作岗位会回归国内,但我们正看到大量的创新和技术,它们将重建我们的制造业基地,而这些基地此前一度已经迁往别的国家。

    这种复兴的基础是什么?

    石油和天然气的大量涌入是其中一个基础。大多数人都没有意识到,在制造业领域,能源是我们最高的成本之一。如果考察一下艾默生电气公司位于全球各地的制造工厂,我们就会发现,能源目前是最大的成本。因此,我们将从石油和天然气的复兴中看到大量投资的进场。一般来说,都是非常倚重技术的投资。

    例如,南非石油公司萨索尔(Sasol)正计划在美国投资200亿美元,原因就在于天然气。这家公司拥有独特的石油以及天然气转液体技术。所以,萨索尔公司正在路易斯安那州投入巨资兴建两处工厂设施。这就是当前可能发生在这个国家的那种可以创造许多独特价值的投资,萨索尔公司就是我所介入的客户群中的一个代表。这些投资将推动出口,提升更高水平的教育,增加就业机会。制造行业的大部分厂商已经对业务进行了全球化改造,现在留在(美国的)都是高端的技术性工作岗位。

    对于制造业岗位或工厂,如今很多人的观点似乎都过时了。

    没错,我就是在制造业工厂里长大的,我的父亲曾长期担任康宁公司(Corning,财富500强)的工厂负责人,那时候工厂会雇佣很多工人。如今我们看到的则是工程技术,工厂更加以技术为导向,自动化程度更高。从上世纪80年代中期开始,也就是日本人追上我们的时候,美国就一直在经历这场革命。作为制造厂商,我们已经学会如何在全球范围内保持竞争力。如今我们处于最佳的位置,一个由我们长久把持的位置。

    你能招到适应你们需求、而又技艺精湛的熟练工人吗?

    这是我们目前面临的头号挑战,我们已经因为这个国家“每个人都上大学”的现状而受到巨大冲击。错,并不是所有人都应该去上大学。我们的工厂需要懂得焊接和修理东西的人。技工学校江河日下,我们一直向很多技校提供资金支持,因为我们需要那样的技能组合。美国经济发展和制造业面临的头号挑战不仅在于工程技术,也在于支撑工厂运转的技术工人群体。你和我都无法让工厂运转,我们需要技术工人。

    A CEO's No. 1 job is deciding which businesses to be in, and Emerson Electric's David Farr is making changes. His view of global trends tells him to double down in businesses that help manufacturers worldwide produce their wares more efficiently and precisely, and to focus on cooling -- especially for data centers, which are multiplying fast. He has ditched less promising businesses, even the company's original one, electric motors.

    Farr, 58, is only the third CEO Emerson (EMR, Fortune 500) has had in the past 59 years, having succeeded the legendary Chuck Knight in 2000. Intense and voluble, Farr recently unloaded some adult language on a room of Wall Street analysts but behaved himself when he talked recently with Fortune's Geoff Colvin about why not everyone should go to college, the difficulty of redirecting a company, Chinese garbage disposers, and much else. Edited excerpts:

    Q: U.S. manufacturing is a hot topic. What are the prospects?

    A: The U.S. is facing a unique opportunity to have a renaissance of manufacturing. It doesn't mean you're going to see a lot of jobs flying back here, but what you're seeing is a huge level of innovation and technology that will rebuild some of the manufacturing base that has left the country.

    What's the basis of the renaissance?

    One will be the influx of oil and gas. Most people don't realize that in the manufacturing world, energy is one of our highest costs. If I look at our manufacturing facilities around the world, typically energy is the No. 1 cost by far. So from the oil and gas renaissance you're going to see a lot of investments going in -- very technology- based investments, typically.

    For example, Sasol (SSL), a South African oil company, is looking to invest $20 billion in the U.S. because of the gas -- it has unique technologies in oil and converting gas to liquids. So it's working in Louisiana to make two huge facility investments. That is the type of investment that can happen in this country right now that would create a lot of unique value, and that's the type of customer base that I'm involved in. These investments will drive exports, and they will drive higher education and jobs. Most of us in manufacturing have globalized the business, and now what we have left [in the U.S.] are the very high-end technology-based jobs.

    Many people seem to have an outmoded view of what a manufacturing job or plant is today.

    Yes. I grew up inside manufacturing facilities -- my dad was a plant manager for Corning(GLW, Fortune 500) for many years, and back then you'd see a lot more labor. What you see today is engineering. Facilities are more technically oriented; there's more automation. This country has been going through this revolution since the mid-1980s, since the Japanese came after us. We as manufacturers have learned how to be globally competitive. And we're sitting today the best we've sat in a long, long time.

    Can you find those highly skilled technology-apt workers you need?

    That is the No. 1 challenge for us right now. We've got a whole thrust in this country of "Everyone goes to college." Wrong -- not everyone should go to college. We need people in a facility who can weld, who can repair things. Technical schools have really dropped off, and we've been funding a lot of technical schools because that is a skill set we need. The No. 1 threat to growth and manufacturing in the U.S. is not only engineering but the technical base to run factories. You and I can't run a factory. You need the technical skills.

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