Grand Rapids, Michigan – Hutchinson opened its first North American innovation centre at its Grand Rapids facility on 20 Jan.
Hutchinson announces “big plans” for US tech centre
Named 616 Fab House, the centre occupies 13,400 square feet on the third floor of a facility on a 30-acre campus and is dedicated to research, development and innovative thinking for all five Hutchinson divisions.
The firm said that about 10,000 square feet of unused space on the third floor was available for future expansion if needed.
It did not disclose financial details of the new centre.
The Grand Rapids campus is spread over six interconnected buildings with about 300 employees. It focuses on developing, engineering and manufacturing noise, vibration and harshness systems for the automotive industry.
“It's a tool that focuses the attention of all the parties,” said Cedric Duclos, Hutchinson North America president and CEO. “We have a place where we can display and interact with our customers in an environment that contains the entire Hutchinson product offering.
“Our customers were very positive about it. We had about 180 people attend the grand opening, and the feedback was extremely positive. They got to see all that Hutchinson has to offer.”
Second innovation centre
Hutchinson has many technical centres throughout its various divisions and a large R&D centre in France that serves the whole group. But the company only operates one other innovation centre – the 507 Fab House, located in Montargis, France, near the firm's world headquarters in Paris.
The company renovated a historical building in Paris that now occupies 507 Fab House. It took the same approach with 616 Fab House, combining high tech capabilities with some historical spirit.
“Innovation is a different look,” Duclos said. “You really want to foster innovative thinking and have the ability to gather the team and also welcome and interact with customers. It's a separate mission from the technical centres.”
Hutchinson chose Grand Rapids because of its central location to major clients and vendors and the company's 30-year history with the location. The city was the firm's first location in the US, initially setting up shop there in 1986.
The plant has manufacturing and compounding capabilities, a technical centre, laboratories and now the innovation centre. Duclos described it as the full offering of a typical Hutchinson large site.
The new centre focuses mainly on anti-vibration parts, but its labs also can service the body sealing division. The innovation centre, however, will service all five activities of the group throughout North America.
Hutchinson North America employs more than 9,000 at 16 manufacturing locations – 12 in the US, three in Mexico and one in Canada – with about $1.2 billion in sales.
Four of Hutchinson's divisions focus on the automotive industry with a fifth dedicated to aerospace. Its automotive divisions include anti-vibration and belt drive systems, fluid management systems, body sealing, and precision sealing systems. Grand Rapids is the North American headquarters for the Anti-Vibration and Belt Drive Division, which Duclos also oversees.
The new innovation centre includes a mix of meeting rooms, videoconferencing technology, product and robotic displays, and banquet facilities.
It is equipped with an interactive product showroom, process and robotics interactive showroom, fabrication lab and 3D printer centre, interactive lightboards, training and conference centre, board room, breakout and lounge seating, and a reception kitchen.
“We really tried to make it a place where people are happy to come,” Duclos said. “The atmosphere is really positive because of all the benefits from all the great work Steelcase has done in this domain, by creating environment and space and furniture, and connective capabilities that make meetings a really positive and interesting experience.”
The centre has state-of-the-art interactive communication systems. Duclos said the telepresence system is a step beyond video conferencing in which participants feel like they're really sitting in front of the person they're talking with, even if that person is thousands of miles away.
It has interactive displays for all of the Hutchinson products. For aerospace, the centre has a simulator of a business jet where people can sit in actual business jet seats in a space the same size as a business jet fuselage to experience the benefit of Hutchinson's thermal acoustic insulation technology.
Duclos said the firm made it a point to use local contractors. About 70 companies in Western Michigan were involved in the renovation and construction of the site.
“We're very proud of that,” he said. “I personally believe that being in sync with the community is important, and that's what we try to do.”
Hutchinson is a $4 billion company based in Paris with 35,000 employees worldwide. The firm is a unit of energy giant Total SA.