Zurich-based manufacturing giant ABB Ltd. is planning to invest $20 million and create 72 jobs at its Auburn Hills, Mich., plant in response to the growth of automation in the automotive industry and others.
The company will increase robot production at its 538,000-square-foot building, adding new equipment to its manufacturing space and renovating its offices and demonstration center, said John Bubnikovich, ABB’s U.S. Robotics division president.
The renovations at the plant, where the company has operated since 1993, are expected to be complete by November. The project is being supported with a $450,000 performance-based grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
Automation continues to expand in the auto industry as carmakers accelerate electrification plans. Automotive is roughly half of ABB’s robotics business, which supplies the major OEMs, Bubnikovich said, declining to name customers.
At the same time, the company is seeing major growth in warehousing, logistics and health care. Besides needing more robots, the common demand among customers is having more control of what they do.
“We need to increase our production capacity to keep up with the market,” Bubnikovich said. “How do we streamline our delivery process and become more intimate with the market here in North America?”
The answer has been to build robots locally, which allows for customers to be more involved in the process, Bubnikovich said. About 80 percent of ABB’s robots sold in the Americas are delivered from local factories, and that is soon to be 90 percent, according to the company. Most of the robot parts are imported, though Bubnikovich said the company is looking at ways to localize production.
The Auburn Hills renovations will add a third manufacturing line, allowing the company to increase capacity by 30 percent.
Prior to launching its manufacturing plant in Auburn Hills in 2015, ABB focused primarily on systems integration and building assembly lines for automotive companies. It has prioritized diversifying the company in recent years.
ABB, which has its U.S. robotics base in North Carolina, employs 105,000 people around the world, including 350 in Auburn Hills. The 72 new jobs will be manufacturing positions.
The jobs pay an average of $26 per hour and offer full benefits, according to an MEDC briefing memo. Crain’s requested pay details from the MEDC.
ABB joins other robotics companies growing their footprints in suburban Detroit. Last year, robotics giant and ABB competitor Fanuc announced an $86 million expansion in Auburn Hills, following a $51 million add-on in 2018. JR Automation, a customer of ABB, opened a new 227,500-square-foot systems integration plant in Orion Township late last year.
ABB, which recorded $29.4 billion in revenue last year, said it expects future investments in Michigan and the U.S.
“As the global mega trends of labor shortages, uncertainty, the near and reshoring of production, and a desire to operate more sustainably accelerate, more businesses are turning to automation to build resilience while improving efficiency and flexibility,” Sami Atiya, president of ABB robotics and discrete automation, said in a news release.