At a ceremony held Thursday to mark the start of construction on ThyssenKrupp Bilstein’s latest expansion, Chief Executive Officer Fabian Schmahl said the auto supplier’s growth can be traced to three key things since he became CEO in 2008: a focus on customers, employees and new technology investments.
At the end of July, ThyssenKrupp Bilstein of America Inc. announced a $26 million investment to produce the latest shock absorber and suspension technologies. It includes a 60,000-square-foot building expansion to add more space on the cramped factory floor. Most of the investment will be spent on new equipment, including more advanced and almost all customized machinery, Schmahl said.
As a result, ThyssenKrupp Bilstein, located at 8685 Bilstein Blvd., in Hamilton, is expected to add more than 200 new jobs by 2017 at its plant, generating an additional $9.8 million a year worth of payroll for the city once all the jobs are filled.
The newest growth plans mark the company’s third expansion since 2011 and its single biggest announcement in that time. Presently, the auto supplier employs 381 people, making it Hamilton’s seventh largest employer and largest manufacturer.
The first expansion announced in 2011, and completed in 2012, introduced real-time, active damping shock absorber technologies to Bilstein’s North American automaker customers. The latest expansion plans call for production of new, high-end shock absorbers, according to the company. Additionally, Bilstein is making lightweight components to help its customers achieve their fuel-savings goals.
Over the years, “we spent as much time as we could and talked to our customers in different levels — engineering and purchasing — trying to understand also the end customer,” Schmahl said. “We’re bringing the newest, let’s say, level of technology next year with suspension.”
Bilstein surveyed its employees beginning in 2008, and yearly since, about the things most important to them, and Schmahl said the results sit by his computer. Employees tell company leaders they value communication, training, teamwork, leadership and recognition.
“I would consider every employee a family member,” Schmahl said.
“We’ve got to involve our employees. They are the ones building our product every day.”
Hiring is underway, and Schmahl said Bilstein has about 40 jobs available at the moment including production, management, engineering, quality and other positions across the manufacturing plant. Area job seekers can apply online at thyssenkruppusjobs.com/location.
“I don’t see this changing the next two years,” Schmahl said.
“Every employee that chooses to do so has an opportunity to have a career here, not only a job,” he said.