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LG: A New Washing Machine Every 10 Seconds

  • August 26, 2017

Imagine a manufacturing plant so efficient it can produce a completely assembled new washing machine ever 10 seconds. LG broke ground on just such a plant in 2017, to open in 2019. When fully operational, the plant in Tennessee will employ 600 workers.

LG is a South Korean company. The $250 million faciiity is being built in Clarksville. 

The 1 million-square-foot (92,900-square-meter) facility in Clarksville is projected to cost $250 million and create 600 new jobs. Located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Nashville, the site was selected after a six-year national search.

The plant is scheduled to be completed by the first quarter of 2019, and it is designed to be able to produce a fully assembled washing machine every 10 seconds. The company said the highly automated facility will also be able to shift production of models within four minutes.

Company and local officials were joined at the groundbreaking ceremony by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker.

Ross said LG's decision to build the plant in Clarksville will bring "family-sustaining jobs to Tennessee."

"This is exactly the kind of job creation and investment that the administration is seeking for American workers," Ross said.

Corker praised President Donald Trump and his Cabinet for fostering investment in the U.S.

"The Trump administration has done an outstanding job, I think, of releasing the animal spirits in our nation and focusing on job creation," Corker said.

(AP Photo)

LG is also building a new $300 million North American headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, and expects to at least double employment there from about 500 to more than 1,000 by 2019. The company also announced plans this week for two Michigan facilities: A vehicle components factory in Hazel Park and an expanded research and development center in Troy.

South Korean tiremaker Hankook also has a new plant in Clarksville. Hankook announced last year it was moving its North American headquarters from New Jersey to Nashville.

The new LG plant will be near a new Google data center in Clarksville on the former site of the $1.2 billion Hemlock Semiconductor plant that was shuttered in 2013. The company disassembled the plant and donated 833 acres of land back to the city and county.



Pratt Industries: Growing Employer Saves 70,000 Trees Daily

  • May 1, 2017

Three of the last four paper mills built in the United States have been by the same company – Pratt Industries. Based in Conyers, Georgia, Pratt is the nation’s fifth-largest corrugated box manufacturer. The company has facilities in 25 states and employs 7,000 Americans.

The growth of e-commerce has led to increased demand for paper-based packaging. A second factor pertains to the environment. Because corrugated paper can be recycled, it is sometimes favored over plastic packaging. According to Pratt Industries, their recycling efforts save the equivalent of 70,000 trees each day.

The company is a member of the American Forest & Paper Association, whose Responsible Package Initiative is raising awareness that paper-derived packaging is renewable, reusable and economical.

Andersen: North America’s Largest Window and Door Manufacturer Is Still Creating New Jobs

  • January 9, 2015

Some of today’s greatest manufacturing stories feature companies with long, proud legacies that are still introducing breakthrough products, and creating manufacturing jobs today. A perfect example is Andersen, the largest window and door manufacturer in North America.

In 2009, in the midst of the recession, the company introduced its Andersen 100 Series of windows and patio doors. The product line has been well received, and with the recovery in the housing market, demand for the products has grown.

As a result, in early 2015, Andersen announced a $45 million expansion of two plants in its home state of Minnesota. The project, which will receive $2 million in performance-based incentives from the state, will create more than 300 new jobs. Concurrently, Andersen opened a new, modern factory in Bayport, to complement its other plants.

The company has been making products in Minnesota for more than 100 years. Hans Andersen, a Danish immigrant, opened a lumber yard, and provided standardized sizes of wood window frames, which became affectionately known in the construction industry as “the 10-minute window.”

Over the decades, Andersen has been on the front end of incorporating new materials, improving manufacturing techniques, and producing energy-efficient products. But one thing that has not changed is Andersen’s commitment to being a responsible employer and a sound community steward.

Andersen now employs more than 9,000 people in North America. That includes 450 employees (projected to grow to 650) at the Renewal by Andersen factory in Cottage Grove, which was first constructed in 1995, and will be enlarged as part of the expansion plan announced in 2015. The factory serves the window replacement market, with employees interacting directly with end-user consumers. Another plant in North Branch will also be enhanced in the new round of company investment.

When a business has operated in the same region for more than 100 years, it may not be surprising that it makes corporate citizenship a top priority.  The company sees being a responsible corporate citizen as including “everything from developing innovative, comprehensive sustainability initiatives to supporting community programs to creating a safe environment for our employees and customers.” Andersen has also committed to reduce solid waste, energy and water use by 20 percent by 2020.

Polaris Industries: Popular Products, Major Employer

  • January 7, 2015

As every outdoors enthusiast knows, Polaris Industries is the manufacturer of premier snowmobiles, motorcycles, and all terrain vehicles. What people may not realize is that Polaris is a major manufacturing employer not only Minnesota, where it is based, but also in Iowa, where it has about 1,250 additional employees. (Other Minnesota-based Great Manufacturing Stories include RTP Company, Wyoming Machine, Andersen Windows, Shutterfly Inc., and Donaldson Company.)

The company headquarters is in Medina, just outside of Minneapolis. Roseau, Minnesota, not far from the Canadian border, is not only the birthplace of Polaris Industries, but also of the sport of snowmobiling, dating back to 1954. Snowmobile R&D and manufacturing, as well as plastic injection molding, continues in Roseau. A LEED certified R&D facility opened in 2005 in Wyoming, Minnesota. GEM electric vehicles are developed in nearby Osceola. The worldwide distribution center is in Vermillion, South Dakota.

In Iowa, Polaris manufactures products from a converted ice factory in Spirit Lake, and a former Stylecraft furniture center in Milford. The Slingshot line of three-wheel motorcycles, introduced in 2014, has been spectacularly well received, keeping the factory and its employees busy.

Modern manufacturing is more efficient than ever, but it still provides high-quality jobs for those with the right skills (especially when the company continually improves its products through faithful investments in R&D, and upgrades its plants to remain state-of-the-art). Polaris Industries is a great example, and is therefore another Great Manufacturing Story.  

Shutterfly Inc.: One of Numerous Manufacturers Making a Commitment in Minnesota

  • April 11, 2014

Shutterfly bills itself as an Internet-based social expression and personal publishing business. This summer, the California-based company, which Forbes magazine has called one of America’s best small companies, will cut the ribbon on a new factory in Shakopee, Minnesota. 

Shutterfly provides its customers with free online storage of photographs. Customers can then use its web sites to print photos and create books, greeting cards, and other products. In addition to Shutterfly, their web sites include MyPublisher, BorrowLenses, ThisLife, Treat, and Wedding Paper Divas.

The $60 million facility will encompass 217,000 square feet and will employ about 315 people year-around. The building is designed to allow employment to swell much higher during peak seasons such as the Christmas holidays.

Minnesota is making a serious commitment to manufacturing and it is beginning to show signs of success. TRW Automotive has 260 employees there, and plans to add 150 more. ConAgra is adding 116 new workers. Baxter International, the medical device manufacturer, has purchased a facility and plans to add 200 to 400 employees. Force Valve Manufacturing, which makes hydraulic equipment for snow-removal products, is expanding its plant by 46,000 square feet. Other manufacturers expanding their footprint in Minnesota include Toro, Innova Industries, Gedney Foods, and Avicenna Technology, among others.

As part of its commitment to advanced manufacturing, the state has agreed to provide funding to technical and community colleges to deliver training programs for some of the workers at these growing manufacturing companies.  

Footwear Industries of Tennessee: Bootmaking Returns to the United States

  • April 1, 2014

You don’t have to live in the Lone Star state of Texas to appreciate a good pair of boots. Around North America, there are boot lovers in every generation, every state and province, and in every walk of life. Very few of the shoes Americans wear are made in the U.S., and that is not likely to change anytime soon. But for the first time in many years, a new, large-scale shoemaking factory has opened here.

The factory is in Tennessee and the manufacturer is an Australia-based company known as Merchant House International. The company has made shoes and boots in Tianjin, China and shipped them to the U.S. for many years. Yet, in recent years, their experience in China has been mixed. Labor costs have risen, as have raw materials costs. Moreover, currency policies, which for so many years helped China build its manufacturing base, are now somewhat less favorable for manufacturers in China, as well. These policy changes come as China strives to encourage growth of its consumer economy.

The plant in Jefferson County, Tennessee, is 40,000 square feet and will employ more than 100 workers. It is located in an old BAE factory within an existing industrial park. An estimated $5.4 million in equipment is being installed, some of it imported from Germany, to give it a capability of producing 5 million pairs of shoes annually. State and local government authorities provided incentives to help cement the deal.

The Tennessee division of the firm will be known as Footwear Industries of Tennessee, or FIT for short. Its product lines will include casual and industrial boots, and will continue to be carried in many U.S. retail chains.

Vaughan-Bassett: Tenacity Leads to $8 Million Expansion

  • February 6, 2014

Though the U.S. furniture industry suffered drastic losses in market share the past 20 years, Vaughan-Bassett Furniture never gave up on manufacturing in America. Now, there are signs that the company’s tenacity will pay off. The firm is set to invest $8 million to expand U.S. capacity, creating 115 new jobs. The company has purchased an idled factory in Galax, Virginia from Webb Furniture Enterprises, to accommodate the expansion.

Vaughan-Bassett is the nation’s largest wood bedroom furniture manufacturer, with 750 jobs. Customers increasingly want to consider “made in America” products when buying bedroom furniture, leading to sales increases and expansion opportunities for Vaughan-Bassett. Local agencies are partnering with the company on the expansion: $275,000 from the state; and $56,250 from the city.

The Martinsville/Henry County region has lost 19,000 manufacturing jobs over the past 15 years, many of them furniture-making jobs that went to China, Malaysia or India. The creation of 115 new jobs, of course, won’t offset all that has been lost. But the determination of Vaughan-Bassett is an inspirational story that is part of an encouraging re-shoring trend in the U.S.

ElectroLux: Manufacturer Sees the U.S. as a Great Place for R&D and Production

  • January 9, 2014

Electrolux is a Swedish-based manufacturer that offers appliances under its own brand name, as well as Kelvinator, Eureka, and Fridgidaire. Its global workforce is an impressive 58,000 people. While the U.S. is not the fastest-growing market for appliances – that distinction goes to developing countries that are on a fast growth curve – Electrolux nonetheless sees the U.S. as one of its key markets for R&D and production.

As of 2014, the company employed 1,500 associates in North Carolina, about half of them at its North American headquarters facility in Charlotte. The others work at a dishwasher-manufacturing plant in Kinston and a distribution center near Asheville. That corporate footprint is about to expand in a positive way.

The company plans to build a new 675,000 square foot facility that will accommodate R&D, marketing, and other corporate functions. R&D activities will occupy two floors in the planned six-story building. Electrolux has committed to creating more than 800 jobs by 2017, with an average compensation of $100,000 plus benefits. That constitutes a doubling of its corporate presence, and a great example of the types of careers available to candidates with the right skills in modern manufacturing. The company will also invest $85 million in plant and equipment.

In achieving those targets, Electrolux’s investments and job creation will trigger $27 million in performance-based Job-Development Investment Grants, paid to the company  over a period of 12 years. The grants will be funded from a portion of the state income tax generated by the new positions.

Electrolux is also expanding in Memphis, Tennessee, where it currently employs 550 workers. That will rise to 1,200 employees by 2019, as the factory, which produced its first kitchen ovens in October 2013, kicks into full gear. The plant is designed to produce as many as 600,000 kitchen ranges and ovens in a single year. It features advanced robotics and lasers that make for some of the most efficient appliance manufacturing in the world.

Coincidentally, on the same December 2013 day that the North Carolina expansion was announced, the unemployment rate in North Carolina reached a five-year low. As this story shows, manufacturing and R&D continue to be the source of excellent jobs.

Caterpillar: Reshoring to America

  • December 17, 2013

In the early-to-mid 2000s, U.S. companies were off-shoring manufacturing production to China at an extremely aggressive rate. Part of the trend was tied to getting a foothold in the quickly growing Chinese consumer and B2B markets. But much of the off-shoring trend was simply tied to taking advantage of that country’s low labor costs.

By 2012, many of these companies were taking a more balanced view of production in China. Labor costs there have escalated. Trans-Pacific shipping costs have not gotten any cheaper, and intellectual property protection concerns about China persist. Some companies began running the numbers and were surprised to find that the cost advantage of producing in China was actually only about 10 percent. Once they factored in travel costs and supply-chain delays, these companies began to conclude that in some instances, it makes sense to re-shore some of that production in the U.S.

Caterpillar is a case in point. A truly global company, Cat will likely always have an R&D and manufacturing presence in China. But for the production of hydraulic excavators, which weigh from 12 to 49 tons and are costly to ship, it made sense to do that work in the U.S. Caterpillar opened a state-of-the-art, 1.1 million square foot factory in Victoria, Texas, at a cost of $200 million. Employment there started at 225 new positions, with more added as production ramps up and demand grows. Employment could reach as high as 800 jobs.

The excavators had been produced in Akashi, Japan, and Aurora, Illinois. The company is now using those facilities for other projects, while enjoying the benefits of serving the North American market for those machines from one modern facility in Victoria. Customers for the excavators run the gamut of industries from mining to oil drillers to cement producers to construction.

States compete for major capital investment of this type, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry was quick to note that his state’s low taxes, reasonable regulations, fair courts, and skilled workforce are instrumental in attracting world-class employers. To Perry’s point, the more the U.S. adopts policies at the national level that make the U.S. an attractive place to invest, the greater momentum the emerging reshoring movement is likely to see.

From 2011 to 2013, Cat opened or modernized a dozen of its facilities in the U.S., taking advantage of the gradual improvement in the economy.

The Boston Consulting Group says the industries most likely to see reshoring to the U.S. in the next few years include computers and electronics, machinery, appliances, electrical equipment, and furniture. Given the importance of manufacturing to any country’s economy, that is good news for the U.S.

Mannington Mills: Sustainability and a Commitment to the U.S.

  • November 15, 2013

Mannington Mills is a fourth-generation, family-owned business with nine locations and more than 2,000 employees worldwide. Based in Salem, New Jersey, the company will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2015. The company has seen rising demand for its flooring products, which include not only hardwood flooring and porcelain, but also rubber tile and luxury vinyl tile that are increasingly in demand in healthcare, educational, and industrial settings. Rubber flooring is increasingly popular because of its durability and comfort underfoot. Due to growing demand, the company has already added capacity at its San Jose, California, plant, and is expanding its Madison, Georgia plant by 45,000 square feet in a project that will be completed by 2016. More than 200 new jobs are expected once the new plant is operational.

The company’s executives see the expansion in Georgia, where it operates two plants that it purchased in 2012, as part of its own commitment to bring manufacturing of luxury vinyl tile back to the U.S. Eight of Mannington’s nine locations are in the U.S., with the other in Great Britain. In addition to Georgia and California, the company manufactures in New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina, and Alabama..

No manufacturer survives for 100 years, through the up-and-down business cycles and changing trends in consumer preferences and industrial practices, without being innovative and focused on the long term. Mannington has developed new products and improved existing ones to help meet customers’ needs.

The company is also sharply focused on sustainability. When the company learned about the large amounts of drywall filling landfills, it redesigned its Premium Tile products to use pulverized gypsum reclaimed from construction projects. It also launched a program called LOOP, which recycles hundreds of tons of old flooring (vinyl composition tile) into new products that contain post-consumer recycled content. By 2012, Mannington had recycled more than 20 million pounds of tile.

Mannington’s laminate flooring generally has more than 70 percent recycled content by weight. Its core is made of high-density fiberboard, made from wood shavings and other waste, which is recycled and compressed.

Even engineered hardwood is more environmentally efficient than traditional hardwood, according to the company. With traditional wood flooring, planks are cut out of each log. With engineered hardwood, Mannington peels wood into sheets, which are bonded in cross-grain layers, with more renewable species used for inner piles. The result is a product that is less apt to warp or buckle.

With its Centennial coming in 2015 and a plant expansion set for completion in 2016, Mannington Mills is a Great Manufacturing Story.

To read more Great Manufacturing Stories, click here.