Stihl Inc. recently dedicated its 60,000-square-foot guide bar production plant in Virginia Beach, which represents an investment of $25 million, the latest in emerging technology, and the first time the company has produced guide bars in the U.S.
Stihl is the only chain saw manufacturer to produce its own guide bars and saw chain, not to mention engines. The original guide bar facility is located in Waiblingen, Germany, while saw chain manufacturing is based in Switzerland. Stihl's Virginia Beach campus now includes eight buildings on three parcels of land that total more than 83 acres.
North America is one of Stihl's largest markets. Manufacturing guide bars in the U.S. creates efficiencies that are advantageous to its operation, while also creating more jobs locally. In time, Stihl officials expect the Virginia Beach plant to ship guide bars to other markets outside North America.
Hans Peter Stihl, chairman of the supervisory board of Stihl AG and son of Stihl founder Andreas Stihl, pushed the ceremonial start button to bring the plant to life. "In 1974, we began with less than 50 employees in a small 20,000-square-foot warehouse in the Airport Industrial Park," Stihl told a group of dignitaries, employees and media at a dedication ceremony on October 10. "We have now grown to more than one million square feet of manufacturing and administrative space in Virginia Beach with more than 2,000 employees nationwide. This extraordinary growth is unprecedented within our global manufacturing efforts."
Hans Peter Stihl was joined by Fred Whyte, president of Stihl Inc., who commented on the company's reputation for innovation and quality. "The hallmark of Stihl has always been innovation and a never-ending pursuit of manufacturing excellence," Whyte said. "What you see here in this building is representative of the very best Stihl has to offer."
Peter Mueller, executive vice president of operations for Stihl Inc., added, "This facility is the most highly automated guide bar plant in the world. Several Stihl technology patents are part of our guide bar process, and even the machines themselves are designed and patented by Stihl. From the special alloy used in manufacturing to the 100 percent inspection, this guide bar plant represents the very latest in Stihl technology and processes."
In addition to the commitment to technology and quality, Stihl Inc. is committed to socially responsible environmental stewardship in its products and manufacturing processes. For example, the company cites the new guide bar facility roof, which, according to Dan Beck of Beck Roofing in Norfolk, VA, is the largest privately funded green roof in Virginia.
"It's a good use of space in that it puts more than 56,000 sedum plants on the roof to make it a 'living' roof, which cools the building in the summer and retains heat in the cooler months, lowering energy usage," Beck explained. "The green roof reduces energy consumption and costs, extends roof life, improves sound insulation and decreases storm water run-off."