2020 FierceWireless Rising Star — Ericsson's Erik Simonsson

Ericsson's Erik Simonsson (Ericsson)

For 2020 the FierceWireless editorial team has selected a diverse slate of wireless executives who are on the rise in their careers. We’re doling out the names of our winners, two per day, so that our readers have the time to enjoy reading their profiles. Next week, we’ll post our popular Rising Stars poll, giving everyone the opportunity to vote for their favorite top executive to watch in wireless.

When the first 5G base station rolled off the assembly line at Ericsson’s Lewisville, Texas, factory earlier this year, it was a big moment for a Swedish vendor that had tried for years to grow its manufacturing foothold in the U.S. market. It also was a significant moment for the company’s Industry 4.0 ambitions, coming just months after the vendor committed to create a state-of-the-art smart factory in Lewisville.

“We really want to lead the market in Industry 4.0 manufacturing,” explained Erik Simonsson, head of Ericsson’s USA 5G Smart Factory. By leveraging greater automation, Ericsson believes it can lower the overall manufacturing costs of building its base stations to the benefit of its customers. It also is aiming to increase its global supply chain flexibility.

Simonsson also is aware that bringing cutting-edge manufacturing technology to the U.S. also helps Ericsson in other ways. “It’s really about accelerating the U.S. commitment in our supply chain,” he said. 

Through “man and machine integration,” the company can reduce its labor costs, while also using tools like remote learning to better train its workforce and increase worker productivity, he said. “What’s on my mind is building a team and operation here where we can stay ahead of the technology curve."

RELATED: Verizon takes delivery of Ericsson’s U.S.-made 5G base station

Before heading up Ericsson’s U.S. smart factory, Simonsson’s previous job for the company was in Tallinn, Estonia, where he led 5G radio production and learned much about technology and culture. “In 2013, I moved to Estonia to build up that new product operation,” he said. “This helped me in getting broader insights and knowledge about customers, and also more exposure to how Industry 4.0 could enable us. Along with this, meeting a lot of different people from different cultures took me out of my comfort zone.”

He continued, “In Sweden if you are in a meeting people ask a lot of questions, but in Estonia I talked for 45 minutes and was met with complete stone faces, no questions or comments. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. Two days later I started getting a lot of emails with comments about my talk, people suggesting different things. What that taught me is you need to understand the culture you are working in.”