Sumter's SKF adding fully digital, automated process

10 new jobs coming along with investment for Sumter bearings manufacturer


New projects provide new opportunities, and a top local manufacturer has a world-class example right at its facility.

SKF - which acquired Kaydon Corp. in recent years - is a world leader in bearings manufacturing and held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday with local officials for a revolutionary manufacturing channel line it's now putting into place.

The new manufacturing process is a big win for the local operation, according to SKF Sumter Director of Operations Marcus Jakob.

In today's advanced manufacturing environment, "world-class manufacturing" is an operating methodology that focuses on a continuous-improvement system of trimming waste, boosting productivity and improving quality and safety. It's generally referred to as the "fourth industrial revolution" in manufacturing with super-advanced robotics, machinery and artificial intelligence working in tandem with a highly technical workforce.

SKF Sumter is breaking ground now on such a process channel line that will allow for fully digital and automated production. The channel line will total 20,400 square feet and feature the "latest and greatest manufacturing technology in the world," Jakob said, to include advanced robotics, automatic rescheduling and full flexibility, where any part can be produced on any machine in the channel.

It is the cusp of new industry technology, he added.

The channel was designed in 2019, according to Jakob and SKF Project Manager for World Class Manufacturing Mike Merland.

In today's increasingly competitive marketplace, the channel will reduce SKF's costs, lead time and transit time, among other benefits.

Change and innovation is the name of the game to stay at the top in the industry, Merland said.

"SKF is pushing this world class-type manufacturing to enable us to remain competitive and to be the leader in what we do," he said.

The Sumter project ranks near the top for the manufacturer globally, Merland added, in terms of investment and its overall impact on the company.

Worldwide, SKF has 115 production sites in 29 countries. It has three sites in South Carolina.

"Sumter is definitely on the radar for SKF, that's for sure," he said.

To put the new technology into perspective, an advanced gear previously took seven hours to produce, Jakob said. With the new process, that production time will be reduced to 47 minutes.

The expansion also comes with 10 additional jobs for SKF Sumter. The firm is still in the hiring process, Jakob said. 

Construction on the channel is expected to be completed in April 2021, and that's when production will begin.

A native of Germany, Jakob came to Sumter for the lead position in April 2019.  Before Sumter, he worked in aerospace engineering with SKF for seven years.

SKF provides bearings for the military, medical, aerospace and heavy construction industries, among others.