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TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Think globalization is a new phenomenon?

Not quite, says Raj Batra, vice president-Automation and Motion Div. for Siemens Energy and Automation Inc., who labels that notion a misconception.

As early as 1850, Germany-based Siemens AG began its global efforts by expanding into Russia, he says. The company was in China in 1872 and helped lay the transatlantic cable from Ireland to the U.S. in 1874.

By 1914, 25% of the firm’s 82,000 employees were outside Germany. And in 2006, 60% of new hires came from Asia and the U.S.

“It’s been part of our culture for 120 years,” Batra tells Ward’s. “It’s how we were set up. Siemens always has had regional centers. We build 100,000 products that are ‘produce-able’ and repeatable in every region of the world.”

Russia quickly is becoming a key part of Siemens’ global strategy, Batra says. Auto makers there are more amenable to turnkey plant solutions, opening the door for companies such as Siemens to build and manage entire factories.

“Russia’s gross national product (up 6.6% in 2006) is moving faster than many people realize,” Batra says. “And its automotive industry is growing quite a bit.”

Building plants in emerging markets means Siemens can apply everything it knows about factory automation and technology while avoiding many of the legacy issues plaguing more mature markets, Batra says.

cbanks@wardsauto.com