JGBR-Walterboro settling into new home | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | December 22, 2016 5:00 pm
Last Updated: December 21, 2016 at 9:58 am
By GEORGE SALSBERRY
Billy Strickland recently returned to Walterboro from China, the trip signaling the next step in putting JGBR Walterboro to work.
“I went there to sign off on all the equipment,” Strickland, vice president of operations for JGBR, said.
Soon the highly automated equipment used in the manufacture of the company’s high-precision steel ***** and ball bearings will be loaded on a ship, its ultimate destination North Jefferies Boulevard.
While the ship containing the manufacturing equipment is making its way to the United States, work on preparing the former Asten-Johnson building to become JGBR’s first manufacturing facility in North America is nearing completion.
“The work on the building is about 90 percent complete,” Strickland estimated.
After JGBR purchased the building, Wildwood Construction was hired as the general contractor to prepare the building.
Among the work undertaken, Strickland said, was improving the electrical service, installing a coolant system that required some concrete work and upgrading the office area — some of the tasks taken on by Wildwood.
Strickland said JGBR-Walterboro’s operations will use approximately one-third of the massive 240,000-square-foot facility and is offering other portions of the building for lease to other manufacturing concerns.
Wildwood, Strickland said, “has done a really good job. They are ahead of schedule.”
When the equipment arrives, he added, it will be installed by a team involving Wildwood employees, two maintenance workers hired by JGBR, a consultant working with the company and a team from the equipment’s manufacturer.
Strickland said the company expects to begin making steel ***** and ball bearings at its new facility in the first quarter of 2017.
JGBR’s facilities in China have been supplying a major automotive factory in the United States. That company will be JGBR-Walterboro’s first customer.
Strickland said that auto builder was elated when JGBR announced that it would begin operating a plant in the United States.
But before JGBR-Walterboro can begin supplying the company, Strickland explained, the steel ***** and ball bearings produced on North Jefferies Boulevard will have to undergo a quality control certification process by making high-precision products that undergo testing by an independent company.
Although the parent company’s products have the necessary certification, each new facility has to undergo the same testing protocol.
The first quarter will see the company begin manufacturing bearing samples needed to have the product certified, Strickland said.
“Once that is done, we expect to see full production in the second quarter of 2017,” he added.
All through the process of getting the business established, Strickland said, local and state officials have been “hugely supportive.”
Back in June when the South Carolina Department of Commerce formally announced that JGBR-Walterboro would come to Colleton County, the press release quoted Strickland, “We looked at sites globally and selected Colleton County, South Carolina, because we believe it is the perfect location to serve our existing customers in South Carolina and to grow our North American business.”
For Strickland, the comments were not just public relations. He was intimately familiar with what Colleton County had to offer. He was already here.
Strickland spent six years working for the former NN Ball and Bearing facility that was located in the industrial park abutting the Lowcountry Regional Airport.
When the company closed, Strickland became a consultant, working with ball bearing manufacturers in Europe and China. That work allowed him to develop a relationship with JGBR that ultimately led him to join the company.
Then he retired and came home to Walterboro. The retirement didn’t last long — he rejoined JGBR to work on the Walterboro facility.
JGBR-Walterboro anticipates eventually 65 new hires once at full production. Strickland said first employees brought on board will be experienced workers from the former NN Ball and Bearing facility.