Reflecting the strong growth of U.S.-made mobile and industrial hydraulic products, a Bethlehem Township company marked the opening of its new manufacturing and distribution center Tuesday afternoon.
The $2.2 million 150,000-square-foot expansion for Bosch Rexroth Corp., which is headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., allows the company to serve 600 customers from the new distribution and logistics center. A second building, the manufacturing site, houses the company's valve and manufacturing space for mobile, compact controls and industrial hydraulics, which include devices made for such high-profile projects as the Panama Canal channel expansion and mobile products for John Deere machines.
In addition to agricultural mobile equipment, plus marine and offshore applications, other customer industries served from the new site include machine tools, presses, die casting and tunnel boring. The site also provides service and testing processes, with robots used to perform some processes.
The new facility employs about 250 employees, while overall Bethlehem operations employ 700 full-time workers.
BETTER LEAD TIMES
The company began with its first Lehigh Valley location 45 years ago in Easton and then moved to Bethlehem, said Andreas P. Torell, vice president and commercial plant manager for Bosch Rexroth. The company has five buildings, including two on Brodhead Road in Bethlehem Township, where the expansion occurred, three other sites in Bethlehem.
"The business is really going well," said Torell. "When we moved the distribution building over from the other building, we focused on lean manufacturing. We took out waste wherever we could find it."
These efforts help the company achieve better lead times and customer satisfaction levels, Torell said.
"I think it's the combination of outstanding associates and a committed, high-performing team," Torell said.
INVESTING IN THE REGION
The company has recently been investing in this region for its North American expansion, said Manfred Hahn, vice president and general manager for industrial hydraulics for Bosch Rexroth. These sites include expanded facilities in Charlotte and in Houston, Texas, and a new facility that opened last year in Fountain Inn, S.C.
Now, the company can work directly with its customers through a holistic approach that improves efficiencies in manufacturing and distribution, getting the product to the customer with improved lead times, Hahn added.
"We saw an outstanding opportunity to create a new manufacturing and distribution center right here on this campus," Hahn said.
Employees moved all materials into the new distribution center from what is now the new manufacturing site all in one weekend and without disrupting customer service, Torell said.
"Converting the newly vacant warehouse took a little longer to upgrade," Hahn said. "We took a warehouse literally and converted it into a high-tech manufacturing center."
Upgrades to the manufacturing center included installing new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, environmentally friendly lights and wastewater removal techniques, Hahn said. The company also has a zero-landfill initiative and is working toward that goal to have no waste materials sent to landfills.
OPPORTUNITY FOR SKILLED WORKERS
The Bethlehem Township expansion will help smooth the company's global supply chain and reach far beyond this new campus, said Ken Hank, executive vice president of mobile applications for Bosch Rexroth. The new site creates job opportunities for skilled workers but also business for the company's suppliers and partners, he added.
"It's a big team effort all across the board," Hank said. "We achieved it and we exceeded it."
The world-class manufacturing center provides another real world example of what manufacturing looks like today, said Mike Mansuetti, president of Robert Bosch LLC.
The company's North American division is second only to its German division in terms of revenue, Mansuetti said. The board of directors sees the potential that the Bethlehem site has to offer for the company's growth, he added.
"To move the distribution center in just one weekend was a tremendous feat," Mansuetti said.