Diesel building and workforce growing

Feb. 3, 2014
In this Plant Profile, a South Carolina plant counts on community and education to help it grow.

The MTU Aiken Plant is the centerpiece of MTU America’s manufacturing operations, producing world-class diesel engines for a multitude of off-highway markets including construction, industrial, power generation, oil and gas, marine, mining, and defense, explains Gary Mason, senior public relations manager for MTU America.

Situated on 100 acres, the 366,726 sq ft engine manufacturing facility is just off Interstate 20 in Graniteville, South Carolina, located in Aiken County, 130 miles from the port at Charleston. It’s part of the Augusta, Georgia metro area. The plant represents a $100 million investment by MTU America’s parent company, Rolls-Royce Power Systems, which is based in Friedrichshafen, Germany. The facility is an important part of the local economy, employing about 300 people.

Plant operations began in autumn 2010 with the assembly of MTU Series 2000 and Series 4000 engines and have now grown to include machining of engine components, as well as the overhaul and assembly of military propulsion systems.

“A leading-edge diesel engine technology research and development facility was added in 2013,” says Mason. “This new facility enables MTU America to be on the forefront of the development of cleaner, more efficient diesel engines that will be brought to market in the future.”

Education and industry share a long history in Graniteville, which includes the site of one of the South’s first large-scale cotton mills, dating back to 1845. William Gregg, the mill’s proprietor, insisted that all employees’ children attend the school he built for mill workers and their families. As a result, Graniteville claims the oldest compulsory education system in the southern United States. For more on William Gregg and Graniteville, see

“The MTU plant’s growth and continued success are due in large part to the strong partnership between MTU America and the community,” reports Mason. “Working with state, county, and local leaders, the company has established an apprenticeship program for Aiken County high school students, which will provide the area’s young people with a headstart on a career in industrial manufacturing and enhance the training of the community’s workforce.”

Effectiveness and efficiency

“In 2012, the MTU Aiken plant received its ISO 14001 environmental certification for environmentally responsible processes in its diesel engine manufacturing operations,” says Mason. “Also in 2012, the MTU Aiken plant completed its ISO 9001:2008 for quality management processes. ISO 9001:2008 is the standard that provides a universal set of requirements for a quality management system, regardless of what the user organization does, its size, or whether it is in the private or public sector.”

Corporate citizenship

“The MTU Aiken plant has been recognized nationally for its new high school apprenticeship program,” adds Mason. “In 2013, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) awarded the MTU Aiken plant its annual Award of Merit, which is given to organizations outside of the education industry that promote the growth of technical/vocational education. The program has also been the subject of national and international media coverage, including stories in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Dan Rather Reports TV show, and Financial Times.”

MTU’s apprenticeship program works through area high schools to prepare students for careers in engine manufacturing. It is a four-year program.

J. Stanton McGroarty, CMfgE, CMRP, is senior technical editor of Plant Services. He was formerly consulting manager for Strategic Asset Management International (SAMI), where he focused on project management and training for manufacturing, maintenance and reliability engineering. He has more than 30 years of manufacturing and maintenance experience in the automotive, defense, consumer products and process manufacturing industries. He holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the Detroit Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in management from Central Michigan University. He can be reached at [email protected] or check out his .

9th Grade: High school freshmen are introduced to the MTU Aiken plant via plant tours and presentations. The goal is to motivate students to stay in school by previewing the apprenticeship program.

10th Grade: The student selection process begins with teacher nominations. MTU conducts presentations at the Career and Technology Center serving Aiken County high schools to introduce the program to students and parents, who are also invited to tour the plant. Math assessments and interviews are conducted. Final selections are made. Students enroll in the program during spring semester of sophomore year.

11th Grade: As high school juniors, students attend high school classes, Career Center training sessions and work limited hours at the MTU Aiken plant during the school year, as an elective. Students work full-time at the MTU Aiken plant during the summer.

12th Grade: Students attend high school and Career Center training sessions while also working limited hours at the MTU Aiken plant during the school year. Students rotate through various departments in order to increase their knowledge of MTU America’s operations. Students work full-time at the MTU Aiken plant during the summer.

Final Exam: The three-part exam consists of a practical exam, a written exam, and an oral exam, which is conducted by a committee consisting of a Chamber of Commerce member or local government representative, a teacher, and an industry representative. Upon completion, students will receive a certification as an industrial mechanic (basic), recognized and protected by the state of South Carolina and the U.S. Department of Labor. Employment upon graduation from high school, employment at MTU America is not guaranteed or required. However, MTU will plan headcount for six certified apprentices at the starting pay level. With their certification, graduates will be able to obtain open positions at MTU or many other potential employers.

Best practices

“We partner with the community to provide education and career opportunities to local students in order to develop the pool of local talent and contribute to the strength of the community’s educational system,” says Mason. “With a highly skilled workforce and plenty of room to grow, the MTU Aiken plant is well-prepared to meet the power and propulsion needs of North America today and for years to come.”
Pullquote: Graduates will be able to obtain open positions at MTU or many other potential employers.

Read Stanton McGroarty's monthly column, Plant Profile.

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