A little bit of Germany in Connecticut

June 1, 2008
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Whatever its nationality, TRUMPF Inc. has made Farmington its home

For almost 40 years TRUMPF has made Farmington, CT, home to a fast-growing sheet metal fabricating equipment and industrial laser facility. I was there on April 30th to celebrate the newest addition to the company’s campus, the Laser Innovation & Technical Excellence (LITE) building.

Why place this facility in this bucolic, high-labor-rate suburb of Hartford? It’s because 750 employees, 500 in Farmington alone, are imbued with the TRUMPF manufacturing philosophy that makes this transition to the US both technically and financially viable.

Originally, in the 1960s, when the company sent an evaluation team charged with finding a US base of operations, they journeyed to all the usual locations: Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, etc. While each of these cities had the requisite skilled labor force, infrastructure, and willingness, the team was uncomfortable with societal aspects found in each during this turbulent decade. Taking a break in more peaceful New England prior to their return to Germany, a chance meeting with local boosters turned them on to the potential of Farmington as a locale.

After investigation and negotiations, the company found three people to staff a small office there, establishing what became a major machine tool manufacturing facility. It is said that the comfort factor was key to the decision. If you have visited the corporate home in Ditzingen, you know the New England landscape and climate is almost a match.

For the opening of the new building, TRUMPF invited hundreds of current and future laser users, along with many laser industry notables, local manufacturers (even competitors), and the ubiquitous press, plus those responsible for expediting the permitting and construction of this new 86,000 ft2 building, which is dedicated to the development and production of industrial lasers. A beaming state governor presided at the ribbon-cutting ceremony; TRUMPF is a major employer and taxpayer in the state.

I had the pleasure of visiting the original facility here and have participated in three expansion events since then. Now occupying 375,000 ft2 in four low brick buildings, the campus is quite a sight. First-time visitors never fail to be amazed at what TRUMPF has created here. The title of this editorial is a little deceiving because TRUMPF Inc. (the formal name) is very much an American company.

Dr. Holger Schlueter, the young and dynamic vice president of lasers, who is in charge of LITE, and I have friendly on-going exchanges relative to TRUMPF Inc. being a US company as opposed to a US subsidiary. He is quite adamant that the company be recognized as American and in fact the corporation makes a point of this both here and in Germany. A German transplant in Connecticut, he refers to visitors from Europe as “those Germans”.

Be that as it may, you can’t ignore the fact that TRUMPF has invested $29 million to build the largest state-of-the art, high power laser facility in this hemisphere. This is a major commitment by the corporation to develop new lasers and to expand the manufacture of existing laser products. The facility also houses research and development activity, which will be dedicated to creating the next generation of TRUMPF industrial laser products. The company’s laser marking sales and applications group is also in this building.

In the photo on this page, I’m posing in an empty hall that by the end of this year will be producing hundreds of high power CO2 and disk lasers. At full capacity, it will turn out one thousand a year. When you are a $2.5 billion business, you don’t think small.

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David A. Belforte
[email protected]

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