Viracon announced last week that it plans to close its manufacturing plant in St. George, Utah in March 2018. The smallest of Viracon’s three U.S. locations opened in 2007.
Viracon says it has invested more than $100 million to improve efficiencies, increase capacity and create adequate parallel capabilities to meet market demand in its other factories in Owatonna, Minn., and Statesboro, Ga., during the past five years.
“We recently completed several large investments intended to give us greater capability or efficiency, but the side effect has been the creation of substantial new capacity. Like most companies, we actively work to become more efficient and closing our Utah facility makes us more efficient without hurting customer service in any way,” says Garret Henson, vice president of sales and marketing.
Two hundred of the company’s 2,300 total employees will be affected by the closure.
“We wanted to take this step while the economy was strong to help ensure our employees could move relatively quickly to something new rather than closing during an economic slowdown when new jobs would be harder to find,” Kelly Schuller, president of Viracon, told USGNN.com. “For the next two months production will be adjusted downward only as employees leave for other opportunities at their choice and production will be moved to our other two locations if needed. We will not add new production orders for delivery the week of March 12 or later and expect to completely wind-down all activities before the end of March. All orders for delivery after March 12 will be produced in our Minnesota or Georgia facilities.”
Viracon’s major investments in Owatonna and Statesboro over the past five years have helped prepare it for the consolidation to two facilities.
From March to August 2012, the Statesboro facility was closed for refurbishment. During that time, Viracon invested $6 million in the facility’s equipment and infrastructure. The renovation included 16 specific capital upgrades, and all major pieces of equipment received extensive maintenance. Most notably, the coating process was streamlined to improve its performance and capability. The building’s roof was also replaced and the HVAC system was updated to yield a more controlled environment, resulting in a cleaner facility. Additionally, approximately 90 skylights were installed to enhance natural lighting in specific areas of the factory, and to reduce energy usage during the day.
Expansions to Viracon’s flagship manufacturing facility in Owatonna followed the completion of the Statesboro investments. More than $30 million was invested to purchase a new coater and to build an addition to house that equipment in Owatonna. In late 2015, the company announced another $70 million investment to add more than 360,000 square feet to its facility and acquire the latest in glass manufacturing technology and fabrication equipment. The new equipment has enabled the handling and fabrication of glass sizes up to 130 inches by 236 inches. Investments in factory air conditioning and automation of processes were also made. The updates were completed in 2017, resulting in a factory footprint of approximately 1.6 million square feet in Owatonna.
Henson says the company constantly monitors what the market needs, and will make strategic investments in its facilities to serve those needs in a way that maximizes its competitiveness.
“For general contractors and glazing subcontractors we plan to maintain our six- to eight-week lead time and very high levels of on-time delivery with an extremely low defect escape rate. The closure of our St. George facility will not be noticeable to any of our business partners,” says Schuller.