When it opens May 3, pewag's new plant in Colorado will be the chain manufacturer's first in North America.

Leadership & Strategy: Steering Through the Waves of Change

March 4, 2014
Navigating the launch of a new manufacturing facility can be challenging even for the most seasoned company.

After 535 years of operations, this year pewag will start manufacturing in North America.

A chain manufacturer based in Austria, the company had until now kept its manufacturing operations close to home, producing in Europe the snow chains, industrial chains and tire protection chains for which it's known.

But on May 3, pewag will open the doors of its first manufacturing facility outside of Europe, what will be a 55,000-square-foot tire chain plant with 55 employees.

Until now, for the 39 years it has operated in the United States, pewag has only had a North American headquarters and distribution centers.

Yet, driven by the company's success in the U.S., it identified needs to provide a quicker response time and shorter delivery times and to reduce costs for its North American customers.

See Also: Lean Manufacturing Leadership Best Practices

But opening a plant on a new continent, across an ocean, for the first time is a unique challenge.

"As a business leader, you have to have a clear vision of your company's future and be willing to take a risk at trying something different," says Mike Uhrenbacher, president of pewag's North American operations.

While pewag was able to purchase in the U.S. many of the machines and the equipment it needed for the Pueblo plant, the company still had to transport some specialized equipment from Europe, where the chain manufacturing industry is more robust.

"In Europe, we have multiple manufacturing plants and a very experienced workforce. In the U.S., we need to create and foster a new manufacturing team that will have the same level of expertise as our Austrian colleagues," says Uhrenbacher, who is the face of pewag's North American operations and the go-to person for pewag's CEO Aegyd Pengg.

"The greatest challenge is to find the right people for the team and to keep moving forward with confidence, even when you experience delays or setbacks," he says.

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