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Tognum unveils $40M research facility in Graniteville

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Joerg Klisch, vice president for operations in North America, gives a tour of the Tognum R&D facility at Graniteville in Aiken County. (Photo/James T. Hammond)
Joerg Klisch, vice president for operations in North America, gives a tour of the Tognum R&D facility at Graniteville in Aiken County. (Photo/James T. Hammond)

By James T. Hammond
Published April 16, 2013

Tognum America Inc. unveiled on Tuesday a $40 million research and development facility that can simulate climate, altitude and working conditions for its diesel engines anywhere in the world.

Joerg Klisch, vice president for operations in North America for Tognum, said the new research facility marks another step in the company’s “exodus” from Michigan, where it still maintains its North American headquarters.

Tognum employs 270 people in its MTU-brand engine assembly and R&D facilities at Graniteville in Aiken County. About 20 of those are dedicated to the research and development facility, Klisch said.

At the engine-testing facility, the air quality and climate conditions can be made to replicate the high mountainous mines of Chile, the cold tundra of the Arctic or a dry desert, Klisch said.

The primary driving factor behind Tognum’s engine development, Klisch said, is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air exhaust emissions requirements. Tognum aims to meet or exceed the clean air standards in the United States, he said, adding that most other nations are expected to follow the American lead on those standards. By setting the bar high, Klisch said, his company’s engines will remain competitive well into the future.

Both Klisch and Tognum America Chairman Joerg Schwitalla emphasized that the Aiken County facilities represent a long-term commitment by the company to the location, and a major geographic reorientation for the company. While none of them would say whether or not the headquarters operation might one day join the manufacturing team in Aiken County, they did point out that the administrative center they built at the Graniteville plant can accommodate twice as many as the 40 people who currently work there.

Company spokesman Gary Mason said that one reason the company located in Aiken County was to be near a major port such as Charleston.

“For us, it’s a perfect place,” Mason said.

The company imports engine blocks from the parent company’s factories in Germany, and exports about 40% of the engines assembled in Graniteville to customers worldwide. The diesel engines, especially the series 4000 giants, are taller than a man, and the size of a car. The engines are used in commercial marine applications, mining, oil and gas exploration and production, backup and primary power, and to power rail locomotives.

Tognum is the leading supplier of marine engines to the U.S. Coast Guard, Mason said.

The Tognum plant can produce eight Series 4000 engines per day and five Series 2000 engines per day. In its current one-shift operations, the plant turns out about 2,000 of the Series 4000 engines a year, Klisch said, and the plant is designed for multishift operations, should demand for its engines grow sufficiently to require such an increase in production.

Tognum’s parent company, Tognum AG, is based in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Tognum AG is 50% owned by German automaker Daimler and 50% owned by British engine maker Rolls Royce.

Reach James T. Hammond at 803-401-1094, ext. 201

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