Freudenburg expanding US-based facilities

As a part of the resurgence of "Made in America" many of Freudenburg's US-based facilities are all expanding to better meet local customer needs.

Call it a growing "made in America" trend, a resurgence of manufacturing, or an economic recovery, the fact is that manufacturing activity in the U.S. is on the rise. Evidence of the trend is ample at Freudenberg companies in North America, from multiple production facility expansions to new locally developed products or products made in the U.S. and distributed regionally or even globally. At the same time, making sure that the trend is not temporary and the new production remains profitable is considered an even more important task at Freudenberg.

"Combining worldwide presence with local expertise has always been Freudenberg's winning strategy. Current economic developments play into this strategy, and Freudenberg companies are taking advantage of the current trend. However, our Guiding Principles of long-term commitment and responsibility put a Freudenberg-specific spin on this growth," says Leesa Smith, Freudenberg North America President and regional representative.

Examples of increased manufacturing activity in various Freudenberg businesses are numerous, reflected in capacity increases and growth in employment but also in growing US manufactured product portfolio.

Freudenberg Home and Cleaning Solutions (FHCS) business, best known for its O-Cedar household cleaning brand in the U.S. made a strategic decision at the end of 2010 to invest over $10 million into strong U.S. vertical integration. This move was designed to increase FHCS' manufacturing base in the U.S., thus transferring significant production to the U.S. As a result, FHCS has since expanded its facility in Aurora, IL by 100,000 square feet and added manufacturing equipment that increased its workforce by 20 percent.

Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies (Freudenberg-NOK) is almost doubling the size of its 35,000 square feet Northfield, NC plant to meet new demand for cassette seals and single element radial shaft seals. The company has been developing and introducing new custom-engineered sealing solutions for its U.S. based customers, especially in automotive and heavy-duty sectors.

Kluber Lubrication North America, located in Londonderry, NH, has recently completed a major production plant expansion. The upgraded state of the art facility is the foundation for future growth and allows for better quality, productivity, and consistency in production processes. As safety is the company's top priority, the redesign of the production floor, resulted in a safer and better work environment. New automation systems and overall better work flow allow for greater focus on locally made products and less on imports. This will translate into shorter lead times and improved product availability for Kluber's customers in North America. 

Freudenberg Oil & Gas Technologies' (FO>'s) Vector Products facility in Houston doubled the location's square footage with a recent move, allowing for expanded capabilities to be implemented by the end of 2014 and the ability to stock additional inventory. Also in the last year FO>'s Petroleum Elastomers facility has completed a significant health, safety and environment protection initiative by replacing older presses with new, safer, and more efficient presses. FO>'s Material Development and Product Testing Lab expanded its product testing capabilities and upgraded certain test fixtures to allow for greater testing ranges. All expansions and upgrades are in the Houston, Texas area.

InHealth Technologies, a business unit of Helix Medical, Freudenberg's medical device business, manufactures Blom-Singer voice restoration devices and ear, nose & throat products at its FDA-registered manufacturing operation in California for worldwide distribution. The Company's newest medical device, sold to physicians, is the Blom-Singer Adjustable Bi-Flanged Fistula Prosthesis, which may alleviate the need for a feeding tube in patients who have developed a hypopharyngeal fistula after head and neck surgery.

Advanced production technology was installed on one of the three existing spunlaid lines in the Freudenberg Nonwovens Durham, North Carolina facility, allowing the company to further improve the quality of its nonwovens used for filter materials, OEM automotive carpeting and carpet tile backings.

In order to secure sustained, profitable manufacturing in the U.S., many Freudenberg companies have made lean manufacturing the staple of their production and operating processes. Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies, for example, has for decades based its production on the principles of lean manufacturing, and as of lately, has introduced a revolutionary concept of one-at-a-time flawless part production. So far applied only in select number of products made by FNST, this non-conventional concept has proven to be more cost effective than standard mass production.

At the same time, Freudenberg companies are looking into the future, and the Group's manufacturing experts and HR community are exploring forward-looking solutions that would further solidify the future of manufacturing in the U.S. In addition, Freudenberg companies have established partnerships with educational institutions and internship programs for university, college and high schools students around the country, aimed at dispelling the misgivings and building excitement about the attractiveness of manufacturing jobs.