Citing a lack of orders, officials with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy on Friday announced a mass layoff of 140 employees at the Hutchinson nacelle plant scheduled for “late September.”
“Business volume at this location through the 2018 fiscal year does not support the existing workforce level,” stated a release from the Spain-based multinational corporation. “While we remain strongly committed to the long-term viability of the U.S. wind market, a difficult decision has been made to adjust the workforce by about 140 employees, to be carried out in the fall.”
At the same time, the company announced it will “pursue a capital investment at the plant that involves retooling an existing production line.”
Following the layoffs, the plant will employee about 190 people, according to a company spokesperson.
“This workforce adjustment will primarily affect factory workers, with a small number of office staff also affected,” stated spokesperson Erin McAlister in an email exchange.
The release states the company will assist employees “during this time of transition,” though it did not detail that assistance.
Since May, the company has cut 30 positions, bringing the current workforce to 330 on two shifts.
Workers at Siemens’ 300,000-square-foot plant in Hutchinson assemble nacelles, which sit atop the wind tower in commercial-sized wind turbines, supporting the rotor and housing components for electric power generation. The nacelles include the gearbox, the drive train and the control electronics.
Friday’s announcement marks the second mass layoff at the plant since it opened in 2010. The first was in September 2012, when its then German-based owner which built the plant, Siemens AG, cut employment from its all-time high of some 400 workers down to 152. Within 9 months, however, employment had returned to about 300.
Siemens Wind and Spanish manufacturer Gamesa merged in April, shifting management of the company to Spain.
Since the merger, the company has announced at least five large turbine orders, but one was in Mexico and the others all overseas.
The company last month also announced it was closing a blade manufacturing plant early next year in Tillsonburg, Ontario, affecting 340 employees.
Since its October 2010 opening, the Hutchinson plant has produced nearly 3,700 of the company’s SWT 2.3-108s – a 2.3-megawatt wind turbine that operates with 108-meter-long blades.
In May, the company began integrating serial production a larger SWT 2.3-120 turbine into operations. The newer product features a larger rotor, accommodating 120-meter, or nearly 394-foot, blades.
“As a reflection of the importance of Hutchinson to our business strategy moving forward, we are retooling an existing production line in our Hutchinson nacelle assembly plant,” Friday’s brief release stated. “The retooling process has begun and is expected to be complete early next year.”
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