Connections 2017

Goldsboro News Argus - Progress Edition

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18 Manufacturing has changed through the decades, from factory workers who methodically made products one right after the other to higher- skilled workers and advanced technology. When the Uchiyama Manufacturing Corp. started making automo- tive gaskets nearly 100 years ago, in Japan, they were made from cork. Today, the company pro- duces gaskets from rub- ber-based materials, reflecting changes in manufacturing, which continues to evolve with market demands and technology. Uchiyama America launched into the United States market in 1996 in Goldsboro where today millions of gaskets and seals are made for the automotive industry each month from the 120,000- square-foot plant on Arrington Bridge Road. The Goldsboro plant is the only Uchiyama manufac- turing facility in the United States. "We make one million gaskets a month and one million seals a month," said Nick Gambella, Uchiya- ma America vice president. "All these — 90 percent — go on new cars, and that's just for the United States. "We're a very strong company. We've got the high sales and the high demand." The company, which employs 300 workers at the plant, has had to adapt to changing times, including how products are made, in a global market. Gambella believes that the future work- force needs more vocational training prior to high school graduation. Vocational training that would help includes work-study options, hands-on skill programs, and a focus on a strong work ethic, he said. And while college-based training in advance manufacturing helps, it's not neces- sary, he said. One of the larger factors in landing a job with the company, which pays an average hourly rate of $12 to $15, is hav- ing basic math and reading skills and being committed to the job. "It's very difficult to find skilled labor here, in this area," Gambella said. "We're constant- ly interviewing people because we're never completely full. If they have basic skills and the desire to work, we can teach them." Uchiyama America is faced with the everyday challenge of balancing operational costs while trying to make a profit in a competitive global market. Overhead expenses, including pay- roll, are lower in other countries, he said. "We're constantly battling insurance costs, labor costs, raw material costs and sales costs, not just with competitors but also with Uchiyama," Gambella said. "We must make a profit. They want a plant here, so we have to change with the times." The worldwide company, with its head- quarters in Japan, also operates manufactur- ing sites in Japan, Portugal, Vietnam, China and Korea. The company continues to invest in its United States location, with nearly $1.5 mil- lion in capital improvements at the Golds- boro plant during the past three years. The company also plans to add new product lines and equipment within the next several years, Gambella said. The new equipment, which is more techno- logically advanced, will require workers with higher levels of skill, he said. "As new equipment comes out, it's more advanced," Gambella said. "The new equip- ment and advanced manufacturing is much more automated and much more demanding. It has to be cost-effective and efficient in order to compete with other companies." "We need to constantly change with the times, and people have to constantly evolve. The workforce has to get more technological- ly based." Uchiyama America was recognized in 2014 with the Industry of the Year award, present- ed by the Wayne County Development Alliance. The alliance promotes economic and industry growth in Wayne County. The company is also one of nearly 30 man- ufacturers in the county. Wayne County's largest manufacturing sec- tor is based in agriculture, said Crystal Get- tys, president of the Wayne County Develop- ment Alliance. Automotive and aerospace manufacturing also have a strong presence in the county. "Agriculture is probably the most predomi- nant that we have," Gettys said. "Automotive and advanced manufacturing rank in there next, and, of course, our aerospace." Decades ago, Wayne County could count on the textile industry, which has since moved operations overseas. Increasing technology continues to define current and future manu- Uchiyama Manufacturing America line leader Jimmy Florentino, left, and department supervisor Demetrius Worrells inspect a newly stamped gasket for quality. Uchiyama Manufacturing Corp. employs 300 workers in Wayne County and is continually looking for skilled labor. Meanwhile, industry in the county shifts to agricultural manufacturing. MANUFACTURING: An ever-shifting industry See MANUFACTURING, Page 19 Story by ROCHELLE MOORE Photos by SETH COMBS

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