I was privileged to be among only a few editors to attend the opening ceremonies of a new manufacturing plant for Bosch Rexroth in Fountain Inn, S. C. As expected, several big wigs were there, including the governor of South Carolina, the president of Bosch Rexroth Americas, the plant manager, and even a couple board members from Robert Bosch GmbH. A news story provides some details about the expansion.
A tour of the new plant started out pretty much as expected. Everything was new and clean, and I was a bit surprised by how much room was provided for expansion. Our tour guide took us past some of the production lines, and it was refreshing to hear from plant manager Mike McCormick that “existing and ongoing improvements of the Fountain Inn operations come from all associates, all shifts, and all departments,” not just from management. What a concept.
But even more impressive was a large area set aside for multi-faceted training. An apprenticeship program takes students through a two-year plan where they attend classes at Greenville Technical College while also working at the Fountain Inn plant. Students learn about manufacturing technology at the school and apply what they’ve learned at the plant’s training center. The in-plant experience involves students working individually and collectively on challenging projects, which teaches them first-hand about what they’ve learned in the classroom, working in a team, and problem solving techniques. Upon completing the program, apprentices can then become part of Bosch Rexroth’s skilled labor workforce, continue their education in engineering, or pursue a combination of these.
But perhaps most encouraging was the fact that Bosch Rexroth was investing $80 million in plant expansion for manufacturing in the U.S. These days, we hear so much about the dwindling number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. that much of today’s youth pursues non-technical degrees in college or don’t even seek higher education. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that American manufacturers often must bring in and train skilled workers from overseas.
Bosch Rexroth officials said Fountain Inn is now their largest hydraulics production campus in North America. And although they cannot verify it, they believe it may be the largest fluid power production facility in the U.S. Dr. Werner Struth, chairman of Robert Bosch LLC, made an even bolder statement. He offered that Bosch’s commitment to manufacturing in the U.S. stems from a belief that the U.S. “overall is and will be the most innovative nation in the world.”
How’s that for a breath of fresh air?