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July 5, 2016 Manufacturing Insights

Saint-Gobain Abrasives making capital investments

Bradley H. Johnson is vice president of Saint-Gobain Abrasives North America.

Need a bonded abrasive? Chances are Saint-Gobain Abrasives can make it. The Worcester manufacturer makes more than 250,000 types and sizes of bonded abrasives -- most of them customized -- for everything from highly technical precision manufacturing solutions to home improvement projects. The company, which employs 780 people in Worcester, is currently working on a major capital investment campaign geared towards better serving its customers in the steel, automotive and aerospace industries.

Bradley H. Johnson, vice president of Saint-Gobain Abrasives North America, spoke about the company’s wide range of products, recruiting techniques, and international operations.

What do you make?

We provide innovative solutions in almost every industry, such as steel, automotive, aerospace, electronics and alternative energy.

Abrasives play an important part in our daily lives as consumers, whether it’s sandpaper for sanding furniture and preparing walls for painting, saw blades used to cut concrete and stone for our homes knife sharpening, or discs to polish cars to a flawless finish. We are the world's leading supplier of bonded abrasives, with more than 250,000 types and sizes, most custom-designed and engineered for specific applications. We are also a leading manufacturer of coated abrasive products, offering more than 38,000 types of coated products with a variety of abrasive grains and backings. Our superabrasives diamond and cubic boron nitride (CBN) grinding wheels and diamond tools usage is growing in applications for industrial and electronics customers.

Which markets do you serve?

Saint-Gobain Abrasives manufactures and distributes the widest range of abrasives and related products to many different markets, including steel manufacturing, metalworking, automotive manufacturing, collision repair, aerospace, woodworking, bearing, medical, sporting goods and do-it-yourself retailers.

How do you stay ahead of the competition?

We continually invest in research and development to stay ahead of our competition and have a large, well-trained sales force who work directly with our application engineers to understand customer problems in an effort to create and develop unique solutions.

How do you ensure quality?

We are ISO certified in our major plants in North America and have quality managers and experts who work in our largest plants dedicated to implementing our internal world-class manufacturing program. This program combines the elements of Six Sigma and lean manufacturing techniques and is supported with record investments in capital over the next three years to modernize with the latest technology available in our industry.

Describe your international operations.

Saint-Gobain Abrasives has operations in all regions of the world. We employ nearly 11,000 people at 64 manufacturing facilities in 27 countries. In addition to our manufacturing facilities, we have research and development centers in multiple countries, including Europe, China, India, Brazil, as well as right here in central Massachusetts at our Northborough research and development center.

How do you recruit new employees, and which positions are you currently recruiting for?

In Worcester, we are currently recruiting for hourly paid production and technical positions within our factories, and for professional and management positions in the functional areas of human resources, finance, sales and production and technical roles. We utilize a variety of recruiting tactics to find skilled workers and are focusing on digital recruiting methods for professional and management positions and internships with technical high schools as a talent pool for tech-savvy candidates for our factories.  

What are your long-term plans for the company?

We are currently working on a major capital investment program at our plants here in Worcester to ensure we are able to meet the future needs of our key customers in the steel, automotive and aerospace industries.

Any additional information you would like to share?

As a local company, we know our work here does not end within the walls of our buildings, as a major part of our traditions is something that we cannot touch or manufacture in our plants – and that’s giving back to the community we have called home for 130 years. Our prestigious history of giving dates to the early 1900s when the founding fathers of Saint-Gobain sought a more organized way to give back to the community. Thus was born the United Way, initially called the Golden Rule when it was created 96 years ago.

Since then, five generations of employees have carried on the tradition of giving back to the community through our United Way Campaign, but also putting their commitment into action by giving of their time to the community. Today, we donate approximately a half-million dollars each year to local educational, charitable, health and welfare, cultural and other community organizations through our foundation grants, Worcester Employee Community Impact Fund donations and matching gifts programs.

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