Sakai America Inc. is celebrating 20 years of asphalt and soil compactor assembly this month in the Georgia North Industrial Park in Adairsville.
The company was founded in Japan 103 years ago and expanded its product line to the US market in 1976. Faced with growing demand in the 1990s, largely from the road construction industry, the he company decided to build its first manufacturing plant in the United States.
Sakai America vice president Kevin McClain, who joined the team in 2000, was part of the team that selected the site off the International Parkway in Bartow County.
There were several reasons Sakai opened in Adairsville, including the success of other Japanese manufacturers in the area. McClain specifically mentioned Kobelco in Calhoun and Advanced Steel Technology in Rome.
“They talk to each other, so when other Japanese companies are considering moving to the United States, they look for other people who have had success,” McClain said.
“We were looking for good access to transportation routes and certainly the I-75 and US 41, the Atlanta International Airport and the Port of Savannah for ocean freight all played an important role,” he said. -he adds.
McClain said Sakai executives really liked the site in Georgia North Industrial Park, adjacent to a large lake. The 44 acres also allowed the business to grow.
Sakai chose Fox & Brindle in Calhoun as the general contractor for the construction project and also brought in local subcontractors.
The Adairsville plant currently employs 50 people. At one point, there were as many as 75. The COVID-19 pandemic cut some of those people off, however, human resources director Tony Cochran said the company planned to add six more workers to it. ‘by July 1st.
The plant has a 175-foot-long assembly line and over 97,000 square feet of office and warehouse space.
Sakai manufactures a wide range of high force vibratory compactors designed for compaction of asphalt pavements and for soil preparation of roads and construction sites. Its inventory includes oscillating asphalt rollers in several size classes and an exclusive vibrating pneumatic roller.
The company has been a world leader in oscillating roller technology, which provides compaction force without the top-down impact of vibrating drum machines.
McClain said other manufacturers have tried to emulate the technology, but the Sakai system of geared machines holds up much better than belt-driven machines.
“If you’re in the construction business and use the name Sakai, most contractors and end users will come back immediately and say, ‘Oh my God, these are great machines,'” said Wes Shepherd. , responsible for buyers’ production at Sakai. “The reliability is there. The Japanese are so good at designing these machines, actually keeping them very simple. “
Virtually all equipment installed at the rear of the plant is sold and ready to ship. Shepherd said the goal this year is to produce nearly 230 of the massive rolls.
A recent major project involved resurfacing the 880-acre Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Alabama in 2019. The park, which opened in 2003, has a 17-turn, 2.38-mile road course. which presents a tight layout and several level changes. The California-based contractor chose Sakai equipment to make the surface as smooth as possible.
Sakai currently has a 5% market share in the United States and hopes to increase it to 15%.
“We are currently assembling four of our top-selling machines here in Adairsville, and this summer we will also be bringing our SW774 series in-house,” said McClain. “This machine is currently made in Japan by our parent company, but we are delighted to have another model to assemble here in the United States.”
Plant workers were busy this week examining every aspect of the 774 Series compactor before the larger machines were actually assembled.
If you visit many manufacturing plants in the Coosa Valley, you will see a growing dependence on robotics, but this is not the case at the Sakai factory in Adairsville. There is no robot in the building – just a long, simple assembly line with employees at different stations along the way.
“The simplicity is what makes them so wonderful,” Shepherd said.
The Biden administration’s US Jobs Plan is being touted as a way to create millions of good jobs while rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, including the network of highways that cross the country. Shepherd said he didn’t think there was a question of Congressional funding for the program, but a question of when.
“It will definitely make a big difference in the market,” Shepherd said. “We’ll start to see contractors, end users, and dealerships feeling a lot more comfortable spending their money on new machines in the fleet.”
McClain said 2020 had been a difficult year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he predicted that business was really starting to pick up.
“We expect nearly 25% growth this year and 25% next year for our business,” said McClain.
He said that if the US jobs plan becomes law, the infrastructure construction industry will be in 5-7 years of good growth and expansion.
Two years ago, Sakai added a new paint booth to its factory, which required the construction of a warehouse to move some of its parts inventory. The warehouse was built for the sake of expansion.
“As this business grows, we have the space and the ability to grow, and we would love to hire more people,” said McClain.
“Sakai America has experienced exceptional growth over the past 20 years in the United States,” Yasunori Azumi, president of Sakai America, said in a press release. “We have proudly assembled over 3,500 machines here at our Adairsville, GA facility and look forward to being a part of this community for many years to come.”