Manufacturing Technology for the Rebirth of U.S. Manufacturing

May 20, 2015
New ventures for machine tool and automation equipment manufacturing promote industrial growth.

Manufacturers establishing operations to produce machining, fabricating, and automation systems is a trend within the trend

There are plenty of stories about the rebirth of U.S. manufacturing, with large-scale ventures (Volvo Cars of North America building a $500-million assembly plant in South Carolina) and more focused projects (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launching turbocharger production in Indiana) revealing how various enterprises or product sectors are having their supply chains “domesticated.”

But lately a trend is emerging within this trend: developers of manufacturing technology and production systems are establishing production capability in the North American market. The examples range from machine tool production to fabricating systems and automation systems.

This is a critical change, not only because of the capital investment or the jobs created by the new enterprises, but because it adds more variety to the regional manufacturing landscape — and that enhances the global competitiveness of all domestic manufacturers.

First, grinding machine specialist Maus S.r.l., is forming a joint venture with Palmer Manufacturing & Supply Inc., to be headquartered at a new plant in Springfield, OH. Maus will be the majority owner of the Palmer Maus N.A. (PMNA), which will build, supply, service, and support of Maus automatic grinding and vertical turning equipment lines in North America.

“This new investment signifies our growth and continued commitment to the North American market,” according to Roberto Sammartin, managing director for Maus. “Having a local presence will allow us to support our customers with top-quality service, sales support, and spare parts management. This new venture reflects our strong belief that our brand has significant growth potential in North America.”

Also starting up a new production program is Fronius USA, at Portage, Ind. The Austrian company that designs and produces welding technology and solar inverters is now producing and testing over 200 Fronius Primo solar inverters every day — a part of the Fronius SnapINverter line for residential solar installations.

“The Fronius Primo is a leader in the residential solar industry and, as such, is a clear reason for Fronius to invest in production in the United States,” said Thomas Enzendorfer, director, Solar Energy.

“Our inverter production line applies the latest lean production technologies. This allows us to achieve both, efficient production and elimination of any potential error source to assure highest quality,” explained Klaus Strassmair, who heads production at the new plant.

This new production line is described as Fronius’ “first step toward more U.S. manufacturing, aiming to serve rising regional demand. “As a family owned company, we are thinking long-term and are dedicated to showing our commitment to the U.S. for generations to come,” Enzendorfer said.

Finally, ABB Robotics announced it plans to start producing robots in the United States for the first time: the company has a significant share of the automation market for U.S. manufacturers, and has operated a technology center in Auburn Hills, Mich., for decades. Now, it will establish just its third manufacturing site at that Detroit-area location. (The original plant is in Västerås, Sweden. The second is in Shanghai.)

It will be the first major robotics manufacturer to set up production in the U.S.

The United States is ABB’s largest market ($7.5 billion in sales) and it has invested over $10 billion in R&D, capital expenditures, and acquisitions since 2010, more than doubling its local employment total to 26,300. The group stated that continuing its investments in the North America are a significant part of its global growth program.

According to ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer. “Robotics is a fundamental enabler of the next level of North American industrial growth in an increasingly competitive world. With our continued commitment and investment, our local team is well positioned to support our customers with robotics solutions made in the United States. Our leading technology of web-enabled, collaborative and safe robots will contribute to job security and quality of work.”