The facility in Aiken County is the Tognum Group’s cornerstone production plant that will enable it to gain more market share in the U.S. “Our success in the U.S. shows there is a large market here for our products,” said Volker Heuer, CEO of Tognum AG, Friedrichshafen, Germany.
As a result of the tougher emission regulations and rising energy prices, drive and energy systems manufactured by MTU and MTU Onsite Energy with their leading technologies are in demand primarily by customers who appreciate high reliability and low life-cycle costs. “We are taking advantage of the current low real estate prices to prepare ourselves for further growth in the U.S.,” said Heuer.
“Engine assembly here will get us off to a good start at this location,” said Dr. Ulrich Dohle, member of the Tognum Executive Board for technology and operations. Since October, a workforce of around 80 people has been assembling engines for industrial and power generation applications. At the moment, virtually all of the parts are supplied from Germany. “When we begin to machine cylinder heads and large components in Aiken in the spring, however, we will not only be able to respond more flexibly for our customers in the U.S. and supply them with units more quickly, but will also increase the value added created in the U.S. That is a key prerequisite for obtaining public contracts offered in the U.S.,” said Dohle. The facility in Aiken offers Tognum the flexibility to meet customers’ specific requirements.
Currently, eight CNC machine tools are being installed that will be used in the near future to machine components ready for assembly.
Since the beginning of production in October, over three dozen engines have left the test cells incorporating state-of-the-art technology. Around 50 people from the region have been hired for engine assembly. Some 30 employees from production-related areas have moved from the former Detroit production site to South Carolina. By summer 2011, around 50 additional jobs will be created to manufacture the engine components. In four years, as many as 250 people are expected to be employed at the new plant.
Because the production of high-tech engines is also complex, MTU has set up a special training program in cooperation with Aiken Technical College (ATC). “There are specialists in this region with excellent knowledge of metalworking or engine technology. We are giving them further training to qualify them for our specific engine production requirements and our manufacturing facilities,” said Jörg Klisch, plant manager in Aiken. Selected assembly specialists with the required skills were trained in Friedrichshafen (Germany) to become instructors for the workforce in the U.S.
The Tognum Group acquired the approximately 100-acre site in March 2010, which included a 270,000-square-foot production building, in the Sage Mill Industrial Park near Graniteville. It was modified in six months to meet the specific needs of engine production. In addition, Tognum has rented a 120,000-square-foot warehouse close to the plant, which will supply the parts required for production. By the time component manufacturing starts in 2011, the Tognum Group will have invested some $45 million in Aiken. South Carolina, Aiken County and state authorities are supporting the development of the new location with subsidies and tax relief and have made an additional site available. The Aiken plant is part of the company’s international production network, which currently consists of 12 locations.