CULLMAN, Alabama – European auto parts maker REHAU formally opened its first North American technical center at the company’s manufacturing facility in Cullman, creating a U.S. site to handle research and development functions that had been conducted primarily in Germany.
REHAU said the ultra-modern technical center, staffed with 45 engineers, will enable the company bundle production, engineering and development together in one location. The company invested $3 million to set up the 12,000-square-foot facility, which was on display today at a grand opening ceremony.
“Our new technical center allows research and development functions as well as new design initiatives to take place right beside production while keeping jobs related to our North American automotive business in the Cullman region,” said Holm Riepenhausen, president of REHAU Automotive LLC. “This streamlines workflow and productivity while offering an increased level of efficiency and service to automotive manufacturers in the Southeastern U.S.”
REHAU’s plant in Cullman produces bumpers, spoilers and rocker panels for automakers including BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan.
“Previously, most developments took place at REHAU technical centers in Germany and were then transferred to Cullman with late involvement of the local team here in Alabama,” said Albert von Pelser, the plant manager. “Now, process developments for products REHAU manufactures for the U.S. automotive market will be done mainly in Cullman.”
Von Pelser added that the Alabama process engineering team has already been working to develop new technologies that REHAU is considering for use at other company plants.
Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield, who attended today’s event, said the state’s economic development team has elevated the recruitment engineering, design and research jobs to a priority. These knowledge-based jobs not only pay well but also tend to anchor companies to the locations where that activity takes place.
“REHAU’s continued investment in Cullman has a vital impact on the local workforce and economy,” Governor Robert Bentley said in a statement. “REHAU has been a great partner in job creation, and I am honored that REHAU decided to open its first U.S. technical center in Alabama. This decision speaks volumes about the capabilities of the state’s automotive sector and our workforce.”
In April 2014, REHAU completed a $115 million expansion project at its Cullman manufacturing center, part of an expansion that seen the company add 250 jobs in a three-year period. A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the technical center at that time.
REHAU said the technical center will focus on part design and production processes, as well as injection molding, paint, fabrication and supply chain processes. It will also serve as a training venue in conjunction with the company’s professional training department, the REHAU Academy.
In addition, the company has teamed with local educators to offer paid apprenticeships through the Cullman County School System’s Fast Track for Industry program and Wallace State Community College.
“Our success is the result of the combined efforts of those working in Cullman and throughout our international REHAU network, and can also be attributed to notable and ongoing support from the State of Alabama, the City and County of Cullman, the Cullman Economic Development Agency and the Industrial Development Board of the City of Cullman,” von Pelser said.