Carolina cookies

I spent the past three days touring Baldor (www.baldor.com) manufacturing plants and test centers in North Carolina and South Carolina. It was a week of fresh-baked cookies constantly coming out of the oven. I mean that figuratively, of course, but the days were filled with one batch of sensory delights after another.

From the Advanced Development Laboratory in Greenville, South Carolina, and its 27 years without a safety incident to the $17.7 million expansion of the roller-bearing plant in Marion, North Carolina, Baldor has created some very desirable places to work with some exceedingly high attention to safety and quality.

Forget the almost-50% unit growth projected as a result of the additional 96,000 square feet at the Marion plant. Forget that its maintenance staff has machinery running at 96% uptime. Forget the incredible attention to detail and amount of pride that goes into each motor built at the Kings Mountain plant in North Carolina.

What amazed me the most was the state of Baldor, roughly two years after it had been acquired by Swiss conglomerate ABB, under the leadership of CEO Joe Hogan. History will tell the tale of Hogan’s post-GE career, but let’s just say that so far it’s looking pretty book-worthy.

This is around the time we should all be analyzing the surgeon-like skill with which Hogan has carved up the Baldor portfolio, pushed out the dead weight, replaced the management teams with ABB’s own culture leaders, and snuffed out the brand equity of its acquisition altogether.

Well, at the risk of disappointing fans of post-acquisition chainsaw reorganizing methods, Baldor is not only fully intact, ABB is investing in its growth.

Yes, when the batch of smart cookies comes out of the oven, rest assured that Joe Hogan will be on the baking sheet.

The culmination of this week’s tours was a visit to the newest facility in Shelby, North Carolina, where ABB is now manufacturing its line of DMI DC motors. In April, it closed its operation in the Czech Republic and moved it to Shelby, where operators trained without machinery for five weeks in preparation. The line was up and operational by June, and ABB’s DMI generation of DC motors were being manufactured in the United States and shipped to customers in Europe. The obvious wager from ABB is that this product line has a significant upside in the United States, as well, to complement the existing customer base of primarily mills and mines around the world.

Here, have a cookie (http://www.abb.com/product/seitp322/4bd491f50ac01a9fc1256dcc0046a220.aspx). I promise when you finish eating it, you’ll be feeling right as rain.