116-Year-Old Motor Plant Is Future of Manufacturing
NORWOOD, Ohio -- In 1898, Bullock Electric constructed a large brick building in Norwood, Ohio, an enclave of 19,000 people that today is surrounded by metropolitan Cincinnati.
At the outset, Bullock Electric’s plant was used to assemble large motors for industrial use, and in the late 1970s the owners of the company, Allis-Chalmers, formed a joint venture with global electronics giant Siemens A.G.
All of this came together in 1985, when Siemens acquired the plant and incorporated it into its production portfolio.
Today, the brickwork of the original building – now brightly painted – remains intact and visible inside the plant. But it’s also where history ends and the future of Siemens’ presence in southwestern Ohio – and executives say the future of manufacturing – begins.
With nearly 500,000 square feet under roof, Siemens’ Norwood plant manufactures high-performance industrial motors whose production is guided by some of the most sophisticated technology in the world.
“There are companies focusing on design, and there are companies focusing on manufacturing,” observes Helmuth Ludwig, CEO of Siemens Industry USA, who accompanied the press during a tour of the Norwood plant Feb. 19. “There’s only one company in the world that brings these two worlds together, where you can design a product in 3-D, and then you show how it’s really manufactured with this enormous currency and closeness in the real world.”
Critical to Siemens’ success at Norwood is the plant’s integration of its product lifecycle management, or PLM, software into its manufacturing operations. In 2005, Siemens announced it would invest $30 million on a plant expansion in Norwood that included new manufacturing space, renovation of existing buildings, and $22 million on new machinery, equipment and technology. A portion of that $22 million – $8.5 million – was earmarked for machinery and equipment used specifically for research and development.
The Norwood plant is busy with two major customers, the Keystone Pipeline project in the West and producing large motors for Amtrak locomotives, reports Keith Lang, operations manager at the Norwood plant.
“The technology that we use has been a tremendous asset to this plant,” Lang says. “I think the development of our people across this organization in a technical environment – that’s been a key to our success, especially in the Midwest.”
The Norwood plant employs slightly more than 480. About 320 are hourly workers and the remaining 160 are salaried, Lang says. “Given the highly engineered nature of our product,” he says, “you’ll have a little more salaried people at Siemens than a typical manufacturing plant.”
Siemens secured the Keystone contract in 2008; the Amtrak work was contracted some 18 months ago, Lang says. “We’re always looking at additional contractual projects.”
The plant’s Amtrak work consists of manufacturing the motor and drive unit used to power the railroad locomotives, Lang says. “There are four motors per locomotive,” he reports, and the plant is contracted to produce 280 of them of which 80 have been built. Siemens’ motors, once installed, allow Amtrak’s locomotive the capability of pulling 18 cars instead of the average of eight.
To date, the Norwood plant has shipped 275 motors for the Keystone project, a pipeline designed to ship oil from Canada to Texas, Lang reports. “We still have 35 more to produce and ship this year,” he says.
The fourth phase, the Keystone XL, is proposed and is slated to run from Canada and angle southeast through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska before joining the lines in place that carry the oil to Texas. That phase, which awaits approval from the Obama Administration, has been met with opposition from environmentalists and some members of Congress.
Siemens’ Norwood plant manufactures the high-powered motors needed to pump the oil through the pipelines, Lang says.
“Some of the motors run on various horsepower based upon flow rate,” explains Robert Vogel, who is working on Siemens’ Keystone project. “Usually, there are two to four motors per each pump station,” he reports, and average about 6,500 horsepower. These motors are coupled with frequency drives manufactured at Siemens’ plant in New Kensington, Pa., before they’re hooked into the pump station.
What differentiates Siemens’ manufacturing method is the use of its PLM software, says Jim Gurski, an engineer at Norwood. “A 3-D file comes from our design engineering department and goes directly to the manufacturing engineering department,” he says. “We use that same 3-D model so that our manufacturing engineers don’t have the to recreate it when they program the part. It’s very efficient.”
The software produces a simulation on a flat screen that demonstrates in 3-D how a particular component is fabricated. In this case, the image shows how a drive shaft’s keyway is machined. “We can do a finished operation and use a 3-D simulation that can be plugged in and activated” to form the component.
Other projects that have potential include additional work in the oil and gas industry, which might have applications as drilling continues in eastern Ohio’s Utica shale, Lang says.
“We do produce motors that go into refineries,” he says. “We also have a new product line – a drill rig motor – that we’ll be testing soon.”
These motors would be used on drilling rigs exploring for natural gas in shale plays across the country, and the Utica could factor prominently in this business. “One of our specialties is the oil and gas market,” he notes.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story first appeared in March edition of The Business Journal as part of our year-long focus on Trending: Manufacturing.
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