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Lord invests $100 million to relocate, combine Pa. plants

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ERIE, Pa.—Lord Corp.'s relocation to a larger, upgraded 1.1 million-sq.-ft. building in Erie is nearly complete.

The move represents a $100 million investment and combines its aerospace manufacturing arm with its research and development facility dedicated toward the industrial and aerospace industries. The two previous plants were located in Erie, about seven miles away from the new 87-acre site it purchased from Bush Industries Inc.

Will Hinkston, vice president of global operations development, said the company will utilize about 600,000 square feet of the new building for the development and manufacturing of vibration isolation and motion control products for the aerospace industry. Products include elastomeric bearings for helicopters and engine mounts for fixed wing aircrafts.

The added floor space represents about a 30 percent increase from its previous manufacturing facility. Hinkston said the new building will employ 850—with 100 still to be relocated from the old plants by the end of the year—including more than 74 new jobs.

Hinkston said Lord's manufacturing presence in Erie dates back to 1932, and its former building had been expanded about a dozen times.

“This project was an opportunity to combine those two facilities and start with a clean sheet of paper in terms of layout and material flow,” he said. “It got to the point to where the facility was obsolete, and we didn't have any room to expand the footprint. We were sort of landlocked at that point.”

Staying in Erie County was one of Lord's top priorities. Hinkston said the firm worked with both the state and local government leaderships and was able to purchase the new facility economically along with selling its old facilities at a reasonable price.

“If it was all about maximizing government incentives, we would have relocated to another state, but we put a lot of value on our current employees and the skills and experience we have,” he said.

“Our first intention always was to remain in Erie County and maintain our current work force.”

The rest of the capacity will be utilized in two ways. First 300,000 square feet will be leased to Bush Industries, a ready-to-assemble furniture firm. Hinkston said Bush no longer needed a building of that size.

Lord plans to utilize the remaining 200,000 square feet for future growth and possible supplier co-location activities, which he said will place some supplier production in house to cut down on logistical issues.

“We may have, for example, a machine part that's halfway through the process and then send it to California for special processing,” Hinkston said. “Our intent would be to have a manufacturing cell set up by that company here to give us an advantage in terms of agility and lead time.”

Lord also took the opportunity to improve its manufacturing process, identifying 200 improvements it will implement in the new building. He said the firm will install a more natural process flow with materials being received on the south side of the building and shipped out from the east.

A number of the 200 improvements were environmental related, such as a water recycling system that Hinkston said will save about 55 millions gallons per year. The building will implement LED lighting, soft start motors to reduce peek load on electrical systems, energy efficient windows, improved insulation, high efficiency gas fired heating units and a climate control system for the office and production areas.

“We feel we can support our customers better with a modern facility that's properly laid out and integrated with product engineering,” Hinkston said.

The company began the project in December 2011, with 2012 constituting the planning phase and 2013 the construction phase. Construction was finished in the second quarter of 2014.