Pierburg is amping up production at its U.S. plant to move a new generation of technology to market.
The company, a unit of Germany's Rheinmetall Automotive, is spending more than $10 million to launch four new product lines this year at its plant in Fountain Inn, S.C., including a leading-edge solenoid valve designed to help automakers make their engines more efficient.
The project illustrates a trend in manufacturing capital spending today: As auto suppliers roll out technologies, many are relying on more automated and efficient production processes to make the work fit into existing plant footprints.
A decade ago, Pierburg's plant produced seven products. It now has 15 product lines, with other additions planned, said Stevan Zivanovic, Pierburg's president.
He said the new production lines this year will require a combination of automation, robotics and advanced training.
"We're increasing the competencies of the work force," Zivanovic told Automotive News. "It's not only the addition of more advanced components, but also the introduction of new production concepts that require a higher skill set and more versatility."
Pierburg, which supplies actuators, emission systems, pumps and valves to most North American automakers, generated more than half of Rheinmetall's $3.35 billion in global automotive sales last year. Rheinmetall's other original-equipment business, Kolbenschmidt, primarily supplies pistons and bearings.
"Fifteen years ago, Rheinmetall had almost no presence in the U.S. market," he added. "Now we're creating high-tech jobs and increasing the level of competency — in some cases relying on the South Carolina plant to introduce new technologies for the first time."
One of this year's new product lines is a solenoid valve in a smaller package, which allows an automaker to fit it more easily into the engine space. That product will come to market later this year.
Pierburg is developing a more advanced inline valve for a 2020 launch. That product promises a 30 percent weight reduction and allows automakers to use a smaller pump that draws less energy from the vehicle's engine, resulting in a more efficient internal combustion engine.
That future product isn't part of the 2018 expansion, but is expected to be added at Fountain Inn later.