Manufacturing is a robust and vital sector to North Carolina’s business community. In fact, manufacturing is North Carolina’s largest employer industry and contributor to GDP. As the exclusive state affiliate for the National Association of Manufacturers, the North Carolina Chamber is proud to represent and advocate for our state’s manufacturers, who serve as the engine of technology development and innovation in North Carolina! In its “Made in NC: Spotlight on Manufacturing” article series, the NC Chamber highlights North Carolina manufacturers that are strengthening North Carolina through innovation, workforce development, community involvement and diverse career opportunities.
Read and watch Bühler Aeroglide’s story below and learn how they are harnessing their innovative spirit and cultivating the next generation of employees.
Made in NC: Spotlight on Bühler Aeroglide
At Bühler Aeroglide, the next great idea is just as likely to come from the manufacturing floor, as it is to come from engineering or management. It’s this company-wide investment in the overall success of the company and the success of its customers that breeds the innovation, collaboration and connectivity that drives Bühler Aeroglide.
Founded in the 1940’s, Bühler Aeroglide was incorporated in Raleigh as the American Potato Drying Company. The Triangle location was a natural fit because of the close proximity to North Carolina’s potato farms, as well as being a center for innovation. With high-caliber universities in the area, the company was able to attract a capable workforce. These qualities still stand today, as Bühler Aeroglide now employees 230 people in the state and has moved into drying solutions for food, feed and industrial products around the world.
Over the past eight decades, Bühler Aeroglide has been at the forefront of innovation in thermal processing, with their eyes always toward the future. Much more than manufacturing equipment, though, Bühler Aeroglide is a technology partner that works with processors to develop their products and production processes, bringing to bear positive impacts on their customers’ profits and product portfolios. What started as a potato drying company evolved into solutions for market-leading companies around the world producing cereal, snacks, nuts, dried fruits and vegetables, pet food, aquafeed, and industrial products such as rubber, super absorbent polymers, and fibers.
It is tough to look back at such a rich history and focus on just one innovation that stands out. One of the most recent innovations, though, is the Ceres dryer, launched in June 2014. This dryer is a game changer for cereal processors as it decreases cleaning times by as much as 75 percent – cutting time and expense. Other Bühler Aeroglide innovations like sequential zoning, which was pioneered in the late 1990’s, changed pet food processing forever.
Investing in the Future
Leaders at Bühler Aeroglide know that if they want to continue driving innovation they must invest in their future. Knowing that their future depends on their people, Bühler Aeroglide joined seven local companies to create a hands-on apprenticeship program to develop experts needed in the modern workforce. The North Carolina Triangle Apprenticeship Program (NCTAP) is a 4-year program that starts in the senior year of high school and is divided into modules, with classes at Wake Tech Community College and the company where the apprentice is employed. This form of dual-education apprenticeship is based on the best examples found in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
At the end of this program the apprentice receives an AAS degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology, a Journeyman Certification from NC Department of Commerce and US Department of Labor, and four years of paid work experience. Speaking with Luke, a current apprentice, the rewards of this program for him are the combination of a college education while working with his hands and developing the skills employers are looking for in an employee.
The result of the program will be a well-skilled, well-rounded graduate who is guaranteed employment and a professional career. Additionally, the long-run benefits for the company are significant. Recent studies in Europe show that an employer investing in an apprentice over four years receives a 7.25 percent return on investment.
Through their work with NCTAP, Bühler Aeroglide is taking a proactive approach to close the skills gap and ensure a qualified, competitive workforce for manufacturers.
Whether it’s their collaborative, innovative spirit or the cultivation of the next generation of employees, Bühler Aeroglide knows what it means to invest in the future – the future of the company, their employees and the state of North Carolina.