› Founded: Ludwigsburg, Germany in 1941
› Products: Air intake manifolds, filtration systems
› U.S. headquarters: Portage, Mich.
› Employees: 20,000 worldwide; 320 at Dunlap, Tenn., plant
› Global sales: $4.1 billion (2016)
DUNLAP, Tenn. — What began in 2011 as a plan by automotive supplier Mann+Hummel USA to open a plant with about 150 workers has supercharged into one employing 320 people today.
"We had a vision five, six years ago," said Kurk Wilks, a company vice president. "There's been incredible growth."
Mann+Hummel's Dunlap facility, where it makes air induction products such as intake ducts and manifolds, was cited last month for its performance and as an example for the entire company. General Motors presented the Supplier of the Year award to Mann+Hummel, which chose its Dunlap plant as the location to have the citation delivered.
"It has a relentless pursuit to win," said Ken Johns, GM's director of global purchasing supply chain-chassis, about the company.
It's the 22nd year that German-owned Mann+Hummel has received the GM award over a 25-year period, Johns said. No other GM supplier is close to that mark, he said.
Johns said Mann+Hummel doesn't just want to win, but it has a desire to do so "the right way."
Josh Speller, the plant's director of operations, said the factory's employees stepped up to the challenge to "never be second best."
"The relationship we have with [GM], we won't jeopardize," he said.
Wilks told plant employees that what they do has no value unless the vehicles assembled by their automaker customers are bought by consumers. The plant also supplies Ford, Nissan and BMW.
"We're not a company that comes and goes," Wilks said about Mann+Hummel. "We're going to stay in this community."
Amber Hixson, a line lead employee at the plant, said the work is "not simple" and there was a lot to learn when she started more than two years ago.
"You get in the rhythm and flow," the 36-year-old woman said. "It's a good job, close to home and has good benefits."
Plant spokeswoman Jennifer Stockman said the factory typically works three shifts, Monday through Fridays. Employment is "pretty stable" she said, with most workers living in the Sequatchie Valley.
Stockman, who coordinates health and safety at the plant, said she never thought she would go into the manufacturing sector. But work at the Mann+Hummel plant isn't what she entirely expected, she said.
"It's not always working on the assembly line," Stockman said.
While Mann+Hammel USA has two plants in Michigan, it decided to open a factory in the South coming out of the Great Recession to be located closer to many of its customers as more automakers opened assembly plants in the region.
Wilks said Alabama was "really strong" in its pursuit of Mann+Hummel, but Tennessee "really stood up" as the company made its decision to open its factory in Dunlap.
He said there's room at the plant to grow the facility if it's needed.
Mann+Hummel, which as a company also makes a variety of auto filtration products, moved into an existing plant when it started operations in Dunlap. Seymour Tubing closed its facility in mid-2009, blaming the auto industry meltdown at the time, and shifted those operations to another facility in Indiana.
Seymour, which made shock absorbers, exhaust systems and other auto parts, had built the $25 million, 170,000-square-foot facility in 2000.
Mann+Hummel, earlier this month, reported first half of 2017 sales of about $2.3 billion, up from $1.88 billion a year ago. The figures include the acquisition of the filtration business of Affinia Group, which was the maker of Wix and Filtron brand filters.
Mann+Hummel also produces Purolator brand products.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.