Germany’s Schunk family finds success in N.C. manufacturing

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North Carolina has many German-owned precision tool businesses and a star example is the Schunk family business, which opened its first U.S. location in Morrisville in 1992 and now employs about 150 people with plans to add 100 more over the next five years. Last week, Schunk celebrated the expansion of its Wake County site and hosted an annual manufacturing and robotics conference. The company makes gripping systems and clamping technology with operations in 50 countries and 3,400 employees. Revenue totaled $560 million last year.

Milton Guerry, president of the N.C. operation, discussed Schunk’s experience in the state.

Why did Schunk select Morrisville for its U.S. hub?

Schunk knew that the U.S. market was advancing rapidly and we wanted to take a strategic path to establishing a U.S. hub for operations. In the early 1990’s when Mr. Heinz-Dieter Schunk first began the search for a property, North Carolina, and specifically the Triangle area, stood out to him. The Triangle is an epicenter for business with an incredible pool of talented employees from area colleges and local businesses. This, combined with access to Raleigh-Durham International Airport and quick logistics for the supply of products to our customers, made North Carolina’s Triangle the perfect spot for Schunk’s U.S. hub.

Why has North Carolina proven to be an effective place for the company?

North Carolina continues to be a destination for professionals in all industries and trades and is one of the strongest business hubs in the U.S. Businesses thrive in North Carolina and we have experienced this through investing strategically, recruitment of top talent, and participating in local apprenticeship programs.

Milton Guerry

What is the reason for the recent expansion?

Here in Morrisville we manufacture tool holding components. We design, manufacture, and provide support for over 10,000 customers in the U.S. In order to meet demand for our products and allow for future growth we needed to increase our manufacturing capacity and expand our technical and sales support teams. The manufacturing expansion more than doubled our square footage of shop space. We also more than doubled our office square footage for technical and support functions. We expect to triple the quantity of toolholders being produced in North Carolina over the next five years.

Are most locally made products exported or sold domestically?

The products we manufacture here in Morrisville are sold domestically and to Europe and Asia. One of the key reasons for having the U.S. hub is to provide our customers with the products they need as quickly as possible. Schunk USA is our first manufacturing location outside of Europe.

Are  robotic arms a key part of your sales efforts?

We are seeing consistent strong growth in demand for automation products and technologies. Specifically, the collaborative robotics industry is booming right now. We are seeing new applications which are leading us to new innovations and the growth of existing technologies. Gripping components are absolutely a key focus of our efforts. SCHUNK manufactures and sells end-of-arm-tooling that goes on the ends of robotic systems. We make the parts that interact with the parts being manufactured.

Does N.C. State provide a lot of your engineers?

We  employ many graduates from N.C. State in many facets of the business. We also employ graduates from UNC Charlotte, East Carolina University, Western Carolina University, Campbell University, Wake Tech, and many other universities.

How long have you worked for the company and how long in Morrisville?

I joined Schunk in 2000 and became president of Schunk USA in 2007.

Are the Schunk family and company based in Stuttgart?

The company was founded by Friedrich Schunk in 1945 and is headquartered in Lauffen am Neckar, Germany, which is about 45 miles north of Stuttgart. The Schunk family still lives in that area.

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