LITCHFIELD — Doosan Bobcat on Thursday unveiled a $26 million air conditioned expansion that nearly triples the size of their attachments manufacturing facility in Litchfield.
The expansion is part of multiple projects for the company, with investments in a painting plant in Gwinner, North Dakota, a portable power facility in Statesville, North Carolina, and a mower manufacturer in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin.
“One of the biggest areas of importance for our global strategy is attachments,” President and CEO of Doosan Bobcat Inc. Scott Park said to workers gathered at the Litchfield event. “That’s a key area for us and we’re expanding in the area. You guys are now the attachment manufacturing plant for Doosan Bobcat globally. So you got to be proud of that.”
The addition of 130,000 square feet to the previous 70,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space brings the total to 200,000 square feet in Litchfield, according to information from the company.
The expansion there will add more than 100 jobs to the area, including fabricators, assemblers, welders and material handler positions.
“This is a wonderful day for our community,” Litchfield Mayor Keith Johnson said at the event.
According to the company, there were 100-some employees overall at the start of the construction project, there are more than 140 currently and the company projects more than 250 will be employed in 2021 as the company makes new hires in phases.
The 15-month project was completed in January and will be manufacturing products previously made in Bismarck, North Dakota, in addition to products originally manufactured in Litchfield.
“I’m really excited about this facility. It all looks great,” President of Doosan Bobcat North America Mike Ballweber said at the event. “This is the best part of my job, being able to go out and do these types of things.”
Four months after the expansion started, the world was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“And boy did that change everything,” Site Operations Manager Mike Kiefer said at the event.
“Throughout the challenges, we’ve continued to work through the construction, through COVID and obviously the outcome was a facility that’s now triple the size of what it was,” Kiefer said. “We’ve made many improvements and increased our capacity substantially."
The new expansion improves the workflow of the facility with parts coming into the north end of the facility, put into racks, scanned and then pushed into one of three weld lines organized by production time.
From there, products are moved onto more than 4,200 feet of chains on the paint line, which was all outdoors until last spring.
The products then go through a chemical wash, are dried and have paint powder applied.
Simple products, like skid steer buckets, are strapped to a pallet for shipping while more complicated products, like grapple buckets, are sent to an assembly line where they are constructed and tested before shipping.
The facility's improved workflow will help meet an increased demand, according to Doosan Bobcat Litchfield Manufacturing Engineer Mike Lougheed.
“One of the things we took upon ourselves was we weren’t going to transfer everything from Bismarck to here as it was,” Lougheed said. “We’re putting up this brand new building and we’re gonna put things in place to increase production and make things better.”
With the increased production and demand, Lougheed said the company has been looking for employees and holding career fairs.
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With that, the company also invested more than $400,000 in a mobile welder training lab which is currently onsite in Litchfield.
The lab can train up to six people every two weeks and uses the same equipment that the plant uses.