By Neil Cotiaux
When Alexander Platter joined the ROFA Industrial Automation Group in his native Germany five years ago, little did he know that he would wind up making the Upstate his home.
Now the chief operating officer at Greer-based ROFA North America, Platter manages a team of six in juggling a heavy calendar of warehousing, assembling, installing, and servicing various types of automated conveyor systems for auto manufacturers in the Southeast.
Platter’s latest challenge will be to shutter ROFA’s U.S. headquarters on state Highway 101 and move it to a purchased space at 1630 Duncan Reidville Road by Labor Day.
Platter said the 21,300-square-foot facility will more than double the company’s capacity, providing additional space for warehousing and new hires.
“My plan is by the end of the year to have 10, and by the end of next year up to 20,” including a designer, project managers, and site supervisors, Platter said. He said he also hopes to add fabricating work.
“We want to have U.S. people. That’s important to us,” Platter said. “Right now we have 50-50.”
ROFA North America is one of 11 subsidiaries of ROFA Industrial Automation AG, headquartered in Kolbermoor, Germany. The company, which recently marked its 50th anniversary, has at one time or another designed, fabricated, installed, or replaced customized station-to-station conveyor systems for more than a dozen big-name vehicle manufacturers around the globe.
Currently, ROFA’s Greer operation — the company’s only U.S. office — works with BMW in Spartanburg, Daimler Mercedes-Benz in Alabama, and Volkswagen in Tennessee.
Platter has plenty of other work on his plate this summer, including a trip to Chattanooga, Tenn., to discuss additional work for VW.
“We are completely booked out … until the end of the year,” he said. “If we get that VW project, then I’d say the middle of next year.”
Over the past two years, ROFA has completed projects for BMW and VW totaling $50 million.
Most assembly lines contain up to 10 different sections, Platter said. “We are here, at this BMW facility, around the clock all year long.”
Currently, conveyor parts are designed and fabricated by ROFA in Europe and mostly shipped into the Port of Charleston and then carried by truck or rail to Spartanburg, Chattanooga, and Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Adding design and fabricating functions in the Upstate will help shorten the supply chain and reduce costs as ROFA eyes more clients in the automotive sector, Platter said.
ROFA equips automakers with a range of multimillion-dollar automated equipment, including electrified monorail systems, overhead wire rope conveyors, roller and belt conveyors, and pusher systems. Each system is designed to bear the weight of heavy loads; overheads are designed to support cargo up to three tons. The company also supplies spare parts.
Jordan Skellie, a brokerage associate at Lyons Industrial Properties in Spartanburg, represented Ronnie Hopkins Enterprises in the sale of the Duncan Reidville Road property.