As part of a global event, TE Connectivity celebrated its fourth quarter and year-end results in Tullahoma last Thursday with a “State of TE” address.
“We’ve done really well this quarter and for the year, actually,” said plant manager Bryan Hall.
The Switzerland-based company reported fourth quarter net sales of $3.5 billion. For the year ended Sept. 29, the company reached $13.1 billion, up 7 percent year-over-year.
At the end of each year, Hall said, TE employees worldwide wear the company color, orange, to work. But in Tullahoma the shirts are just a little more muted, almost peach. “We’ve got a lot of Alabama fans here,” Hall said.
TE Connectivity joined the Tullahoma landscape after the company acquired Deutsch in 2012. The global company designs and manufactures more than 500,000 “products that connect and protect the flow of power and data” inside the things people use every day, from consumer electronics and communication networks to agricultural, automotive, aviation and aerospace equipment.
“We’re one of the leaders in the industry, especially in ICT (Industrial and Commercial Transportation),” Hall said.
The Tullahoma plant specializes in multi-pin connectors that will be used in harsh environments.
“Things that will go through extreme vibration or extreme temperatures,” Hall said, citing examples such as high-end loaders, fire trucks and 18-wheelers.
With the assistance of collaborative robots, the plant’s 220 employees make roughly 500 different connectors using 144 different heavy-duty molds on high-temperature injection molding machines.
“On an average day, we’re making anywhere from 10 to 16 different types of connectors,” Hall said, estimating that about 20,000 parts are completed each day. Compared to other plants, he said, “That’s low volume.” And that’s because these are specialty parts.
“What we do here is a lot of changeover [from one mold to another].”
For example, after 600 units of one connector have been produced, a machine may be refitted to produce 5,000 units of a wholly different part. The largest run of any one product, Hall said, is 1.3 million units.
It’s a testament to the plant’s operation that with this degree of changeover on industrial machines that run around the clock five days a week, it has gone more than three years without a recordable safety incident.
“When you look at what we do, that safety record is pretty good,” Hall said. “There’s a lot of opportunity that we’ve minimized completely. It’s the culture we have here that everybody is constantly thinking about safety.”
The most repetitive motions are handled by the plant’s collaborative robots, avoiding ergonomic injuries. In turn, the use of robots brings in employees with higher skill levels, Hall said, “Because we need people to work on them.” They also help make the company more competitive.
“We’re able to compete with Mexico,” Hall said. “That’s huge for us. Because a lot of these are manual operations that you’d generally see go to Mexico. That’s something we struggle with in the United States.”
And those competitive rates on the final product generate more business for the company.
“The people here have done such a good job of turning this plant around that they are considering us for all kinds of new business,” Hall said.
Already, the 40,000-square-foot plant is bustling, but there is room for expansion. And there’s another 40,000-square-foot building just like it sitting idle next door. Hall is optimistic that both plants will be operational within the next few years.
“Hopefully, this time next year, this plant is completely full and three years from now that (second) plant is full. That’s my plan. We’ll see how it goes.”
According to Hall, the plant is expected to hire approximately 30 new employees over the next year.
Kelly Lapczynski may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.