Businesses and their employees are depending on video conferencing platforms to stay connected during the pandemic. For the Rittal North America facility in Urbana this means growing demand for the IT enclosures, racks and accessories its 400 production workers manufacture in three shifts.
“We’ve seen a fantastic growth in IT infrastructure for critical customers,” Neil Love, Vice President of Operations and Supply Chain, recently informed the Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP).
To keep up with increasing orders, Rittal is recruiting 40 more assemblers, machine operators and welders to join its total Urbana workforce of more than 500, Love says.
In addition, Rittal recently invested more than $3 million in state-of-the-art equipment to form metal for IT enclosures.
“News like this, during the pandemic, is very encouraging,” says CEP Director Marcia Bailey. “Champaign County is fortunate to have a diverse mix of businesses and employers like Rittal who are growing, planning for the future and providing new jobs for our community.”
Rittal is investing in current and future workforce needs, Love said. Here are three examples:
· Apprenticeships to develop engineers: Rittal, partnering with ApprenticeOhio and Clark State Community College, has three four-year apprentices – one in industrial engineering and two in maintenance engineering.
David Vanderveen, an assembler at Rittal for six years, is the industrial engineering apprentice. He was looking into returning to school for engineering when Rittal announced the apprenticeship. About Vanderveen, Love says: “He’s one of those hidden gems you have in your organization. He’s growing very quickly and showing great potential in his apprenticeship.”
Love adds, “Increasingly there is a drive for apprenticeships, as we have less people with technical backgrounds in the workplace. It’s a great way to grow our capability.” And it provides the Rittal apprentices the chance to advance their careers while being paid and avoiding debt from education.
Vanderveen is working under the mentorship of Rittal Industrial Manager Steve Butka, while studying online through Clark State. He will begin in-person labs at Clark State this fall.
· Partnership with TAC (The Abilities Connection): TAC, which serves and employs people with developmental or physical disabilities, has placed five associates who support Rittal’s industrial engineering team. They cut gaskets for IT racks and complete other tasks as needed.
Claus Wolf, Rittal’s Sourcing and Procurement Manager, said that the partnership has “helped us as a business when hiring for open positions is challenging. And it’s helped us to connect with the wider community and to provide purposeful work” for TAC associates.
· Partnership with University of Dayton: A team of business undergraduates completed their senior capstone project at Rittal, for which they won the University of Dayton’s 2020 Outstanding Operations Senior Team of the Year Award.
Wolf said he gave the team free rein to investigate ways to reorganize Rittal’s wood-based product supply chain, including pallets. “They found a vendor that saved us more than $100,000. They found a solution that we couldn’t even when we tried several times,” Wolf said. Rittal plans to continue the partnership with an eye on expanding its talent pool.
Information from Champaign Economic Partnership.