CULLMAN, Ala.—Rehau Americas has added a technical center to its Automotive Group's facility in Cullman.
It's the group's first center in the North American region, according to the company.
Spanning 12,000 square feet, the new technical center represents a $3 million investment and will provide working space for the 45 engineers at the facility. The firm held a grand opening celebration for the center on Sept. 2.
Cullman Plant Manager Albert von Pelser said the expansion was necessary because of the company's expanded business with original equipment automotive manufacturers.
“We started to transfer some engineers and hire many engineers here in the North American market, and we were running out of space,” von Pelser said. “We had to place the engineers in different locations, some even in office trailers. We knew that to have all of our engineers working efficiently together, we needed one good building for them.”
The technical center is just one part of the manufacturing facility in Cullman, which spans 800,000 square feet and employs about 1,000, von Pelser said.
Rehau just expanded the facility by 100,000 square feet in 2014. That addition focused on adding more production for bumpers.
In addition to bumpers, Rehau produces spoilers and rocker panels for BMW, Mercedes and Nissan utilizing thermoplastic elastomers, specifically thermoplastic polyolefins.
Cullman is the only Rehau Automotive Group facility in the U.S.; the group also operates a plant in Mexico. The Alabama facility opened in 1996 and at first employed 300.
“We will definitely diversify over the next three to four years,” von Pelser said. “We've reached a point here where you don't want the facility to get too big. So now we're trying to diversify our business and our customer base. That's exactly where our technical center will give us an advantage. Not only did we increase our capabilities with it, but in one building now we can turn around new quotes faster. The efficiency has really increased.”
Rehau said the center will be dedicated to continuous development of part design and production processes as well as injection molding, paint, fabrication and supply chain processes.
Engineers at the plant will have access to expanded and localized laboratory testing capabilities, reducing the need to send prototype components and systems to either Rehau's North American headquarters in Leesburg, Va., or overseas to facilities in Germany.
The firm plans to use the facility as a training venue for technical center employees and customers.
The state of Alabama, city and county of Cullman, the Cullman Economic Development Agency and the Industrial Development Board of the city of Cullman supported Rehau's expansion, von Pelser said.
Rehau produces polymer-based innovations and systems for construction, automotive and industrial applications with about 19,000 employees at more than 170 worldwide locations.