There’s various types of work done at Rockwell Automation Inc.’s sprawling headquarters in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point area, but one thing the 2 million-square-foot campus doesn’t have is dedicated manufacturing space.
That’s about to change though, as Rockwell president and CEO Blake Moret announced Friday at the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Power Breakfast that for the first time in roughly a decade, manufacturing will return to the Clock Tower building late next year. The initial reincarnation will only add about a dozen jobs, but Moret believes the manufacturing line, which will produce electrical contactors, will restore some of the original character the facility had when he first arrived at the company in the 1980s.
“That line begins modest,” Moret said. “When I joined the company in the mid-’80s, one of the big attractions to me was that it was a running factory. That building, in addition to all of the leadership, we actually made stuff in that building.”
The manufacturing line will help Rockwell continue to find use for its massive campus, which in recent years has seen its space repurposed for collaborative areas for employees and for a new customer experience center. Rockwell has also considered filling some of the space with other manufacturers, including Foxconn Technology Group, but Moret said Friday Rockwell prefers to find its own uses for the open space before inviting other companies in.
“We have a lot of unused space, I don’t think that’s any secret,” he said. “I’ll put that to work in our business before we look at other alternatives.”
Rockwell will use all of its latest technology and software to make the contactors competitively in Milwaukee before shipping them out to the company’s various distribution centers, Moret told the audience of more than 300 business executives and professionals gathered at The Pfister downtown.
“We tell customers that with automation, even in a high-labor cost country like the U.S., you can be competitive, and I’m looking forward to additional ways to prove that and walk the walk,” he said.
Moret added that he’s open to eventually extending the manufacturing footprint of the Walker’s Point headquarters and that he views the contactor line as “an opportunity to prove some things out.” He wouldn’t commit to any specifics beyond the late 2019 addition, however.
“We will continue to have a worldwide manufacturing and engineering footprint,” he said. “But I like the idea of bringing a line back and getting some experience again there.”
According to the Business Journal’s list of largest area manufacturing firms published June 22, Rockwell Automation reported about 4,000 local employees and 22,000 companywide.