Construction Starts in California for New Mori Seiki Plant

July 21, 2011
New plant targeted to produce HMCs at a rate of 100 machines/month
The initial production plans for Mori Seiki’s new North American will focus on its X-Class machines, like the NHX 4000, one of the NHX Series developed to control operating costs by reducing the number of parts, but also to respond to the machine shop market’s demand for tools that perform with high speed and accuracy, rigidity, and energy savings.
Groundbreaking at the Davis, Calif., site of Mori Seiki’s North American manufacturing plant. Shown are Tetsuya Iwata (Consul General to Japan in San Francisco), Dr. Masahiko Mori, Joe Krovoza, Natsuo (Jim) Okada, and Mark Mohr.

One of the world’s largest designers and manufacturers of machine tools is setting up production in North America. In line with previous reports, Mori Seiki broke ground on a 200,000-square-foot factory on a 14.5-acre site in Davis, Calif. The Japan-based machine tool designer and manufacturer opened its 70,000-sq-ft Digital Technology Laboratory (DTL) nearby in 2009, where it researches and develops machine tool designs, machine control systems, and pallet systems. The earlier report estimated the project as a $60-million investment. Construction is set to finish on the new plant in the fall of 2012.

Mori Seiki has been developing software and machinery at DTL since 2000, and that unit now has 80 employees. Establishing a manufacturing base in North America creates further opportunity for R&D in the U.S., according to the company. The Northern California region also provides a good selection of engineering talent, for example from the University of California campuses at Davis and Berkeley.

The new plant will be Mori Seiki’s first manufacturing operation in North America, and the company projects employment in the range of 100 to 150 at full operating potential of up to 100 machine centers per month. It has four plants in Japan and one in Switzerland, the DIXI Machines operation in Le Locle, Switzerland, which Mori Seiki bought in 2007. It produces and markets the DIXI brand machines but also uses the Swiss site to manufacture Mori Seiki machines.

Once the North American factory is in full operation Mori Seiki estimates its total capability will be approximately 900 machines per month. It said that volume would be in line with the global expansion of machine tool sales it anticipates in the coming decade.

“Our initial targets are our horizontal machining centers, the X-Class NHX4000 and NHX5000 Series,” said DMG/Mori Seiki USA president Mark Mohr of the production plans at the California operation. “Our next product under consideration is the DMU 50 and potentially other X class machines.”

Mori Seiki and Germany’s DMG have a cross-ownership arrangement and co-market their machine designs and technologies worldwide. In the U.S., the two groups have consolidated their business as DMG / Mori Seiki USA, headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Manufacturing domestically will create strategic advantages for the organization, principally in terms of currency exchange. “If the value of the U.S. dollar declines, it will become fiscally advantageous to manufacture machine tools in North America, eliminating the cost of importing from Japan,” explained CEO Dr. Masahiko Mori. The company expects that adding the North American manufacturing plant will offset the exchange-rate disparity and ensure the quality, precision, and value of its products.

“The West Coast location makes it very easy to work with our Japanese colleagues,” Mohr added. “For instance, we will be importing ball screws and spindles from our own manufacturing facilities in Japan, not for purposes of cost saving but because they’re simply the highest quality.”

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)

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