ABB expands robot production and training in Auburn Hills, Mich.

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Front entrance of ABB facility in Auburn Hills, Mich.

ABB has expanded production, staff, and training space in Auburn Hills, Mich. Source: ABB

ABB Ltd. today opened its renovated U.S. robotics headquarters and manufacturing facility in Auburn Hills, Mich. The company said the site will support ABB Robotics’ development and production of leading systems in and for the Americas.

ABB added that it is investing in long-term growth in the U.S. market, which it predicted will experience an 8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). The company, which is based in Sweden and Switzerland, said this is its third global robotics factory expansion in three years across China, Europe, and the Americas and is part of its efforts to strengthen its “local-for-local” footprint.

“The opening of our refitted state-of-the-art U.S. robotics headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., is a significant part of our global growth story, reaffirming our commitment to industry leadership in the U.S.,” stated Sami Atiya, president of ABB’s Robotics and Discrete Automation Business Area. “Robotics and AI are essential tools for companies in addressing critical labor shortages, localized supply chains, and the need to operate more sustainably.”

“The advances in AI-driven software and hardware make our robots more accessible to a wider range of businesses, enabling them to increase resilience and become more competitive,” he added. “America is now the world’s second-largest robotics market, and our production facility will help ABB support existing customers, as well as new growth sectors across the U.S. and the Americas region.”

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Auburn Hills gets four enhancements

With a 30% increase in space, the $20 million Auburn Hills facility will support ABB’s efforts to be a strategic partner for its growing customer base.

“We had our first manipulator roll off the line in 2016, and ABB is still the first major robotics company to manufacture systems in the U.S.,” said John Bubnikovich, president of ABB’s U.S. Robotics Division. “We want this and our other competence centers to get closer to customers, to understand their needs and requirements from a segment standpoint.”

He told The Robot Report that the expanded facilities include four key parts: a Customer Experience Center, training space, more flexible production, and modernized employee workspaces.

John Bubnikovich, ABB Robotics U.S.

ABB Robotics wants to be a trusted strategic partner to U.S. customers, says VP John Bubnikovich. Source ABB

Customer Experience Center

Bubnikovich said ABB’s new Customer Experience Center will “showcase its latest and greatest technologies.” It will also provide a venue for ABB to collaborate with educational institutions and customers on digital and AI-powered automation.

“Robots used to be complicated and needed a lot of people to deploy, but it’s now easier,” Rubnikovich said. “Education and outreach are critical factors to growth. An SME [small-to-midsize enterprise] can now effectively apply robots without an army of engineers.”

New training center

While ABB had already trained 5,000 staffers and users to date, the expansion will increase the number of people going through application and robot training, he said.

Complete with a new training center, the Ann Arbor facility will educate more than 3,000 workers and students each year. In addition to capitalizing on the concentration of technical skills in the community, ABB said it will train workers with no prior experience or degree with the skills needed to build a successful career in the robotics and automation industry.

“There will be something for everyone — from basic robot programming to advanced applications like painting,” said Rubnikovich.

ABB expands localized production

The localized production capability will provide flexibility, supply chain resilience, and the opportunity to learn from the experiences of ABB’s units around the world, he added.

“Operations are creating engineering development platforms, or EDPs, in local regions,” said Rubnikovich. “For instance, Mexico recently surpassed China for imports into the U.S., and we can leverage some modular assembly in Mexico for efficiencies of scale.”

“We have three global factories — Auburn Hills, Sweden, and Shanghai — and we’re adding models and autonomous mobile robots [AMRs] for local use,” said Rubnikovich. ABB acquired AMR maker ASTI in 2021. “Our robots will be integrated into production processes throughout the factory. This will help our understanding of how customers apply robots differently, even in the same application space. What better way to demonstrate our products?”

The expanded facility will support ABB Robotics’ specialist centers including its Packaging and Logistics hub in Atlanta; its Life Sciences and Healthcare hub at the Texas Medical Center in Houston; and its AI Research Lab in San Jose, Calif.

“We also opened up a Root-Cause Analysis [RCA] center to increase responsiveness,” Rubnikovich said. “It used to take 60 days to do RCA because we had to send equipment back to Sweden, but now it takes under 10 days. The competence to diagnose a problem and make adjustments — that guarantees quality in addition to local manufacturing,”

A modern workplace

The workplace modernization is intended to help ABB attract and retain talent, plus build a culture of internal collaboration, said Bubnikovich.

“Jobs in an automated plant are higher-skilled work than just assembly,” said Bubnikovich. “They include doing maintenance on robots, fine-tuning programming, and other things as you evolve production for efficiency and synergy. This investment will be a win-win.”

ABB's expanded robot training center in Auburn Hills, Mich.

The new training center will show that robots have changed manufacturing jobs for the better. Source: ABB

ABB invests in Michigan manufacturing

ABB noted that the expansion will create jobs with support from a $450,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant.

ABB Robotics has invested $30 million in training since 2019 across four locations, opening its Auburn Hills manufacturing facility in 2015. The latest investment in Auburn Hills is part of the previously announced approximately $170 million that ABB is investing in its electrification and automation businesses across the U.S.

“ABB’s $20 million investment in Auburn Hills will create more than 70 good-paying, high-skill jobs and build on Michigan’s advanced manufacturing leadership,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during the opening ceremony. “Around the world, ABB’s technology supports the production of electric vehicles, medical devices, electronics, and even pastries.”

“Today’s expansion at their robotics headquarters will tighten the supply chain and cut down on production delays, while building on ABB’s long-standing investments in local workforce development and hands-on education,” she said. “Let’s keep competing to bring more cutting-edge investments home to Michigan.”

“Through our expanded facility, partner ecosystem and comprehensive AI-enabled product portfolio, we are pushing the boundaries of technology to drive performance to new levels,” said Bubnikovich. “We look forward to increasing support for our customers, to expanding our role as an employer, and to energizing the transformation of society and industry to achieve a more productive, sustainable future.”

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