Fort Mill, S.C. — An expansion at Weima America Inc. has the company planning for continued growth.
The maker of shredders, granulators and briquetting machines is buying an adjacent building after previously using just a portion of the leased facility. It's a move that will push overall operations to just about 41,000 square feet in total.
The expansion, CEO Martin Friz said, allows Weima to add capabilities and inventory to better serve the U.S. market.
"We want to empower our location in the U.S.," Friz said in an interview at a recent dealer event at the company's location in South Carolina.
The extra room will allow for more assembly and production of certain components.
"It makes sense, otherwise you are transporting a lot of air and space over the ocean," the CEO said.
Weima America is a unit of Weima Maschinenbau GmbH, which has facilities in both Ilsfeld and Annaburg, Germany.
Weima's expansion in the U.S. market occurs as the company becomes more and more familiar in the market, Friz said. "I think we are still only just at the beginning. The story starts here," said Friz, an affable man who is quick with a laugh. "It doesn't end here. It just starts here.
"There's definitely a momentum here we've seen for a few years, and it's picking up," Friz said about the U.S. market.
Weima's physical growth also means the company will add about 20 jobs over the next two years or so, expanding from about 30 to 50 workers in the United States.
Overall, the firm has about 250 employees, including the two locations in Germany and a plant in China that makes equipment only for that market.
Employee growth will come with the company's ability to find the right workers. "I think it's one of the key things. Finding good people is a challenge wherever you go in the world," Friz said.
America is the single most important market for Weima outside of Germany and accounts for about $15 million to $20 million in annual sales, about a quarter of the company's total, Friz said.
"I think we really reached the point where the brand is expanding and people are getting excited about it," he said about the U.S. market.
Weima hosted an event that drew 100 people in Fort Mill, which allowed the company to show off its machinery capabilities as well as the expanded location. That kind of crowd would have been unheard of in the past, the CEO said.
Dealers learned about specific Weima machinery applications for plastics, waste-to-energy and wood.
Weima anticipates more growth in the future with the increased social and economic focus on recycling.
"We do see the American industry and population slowly but steadily turning toward recycling as a way of life," Friz said. "That trend is irreversible. The question is how quick? Depends. The trend is set, and it will not go away and will happen. The question is all about speed.
"I think we are still only just at the beginning," he said.