CULLMAN, AL — REHAU announces the 25-year anniversary of establishing its production plant in Cullman, Ala. The plant began operations in early 1996 with 30 employees producing bumpers for the 1997 sport utility vehicle of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) made in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The facility has expanded numerous times to its current footprint of about a million square feet with nearly 800 employees and currently operates as two separate plants – one specializing in automotive painted exterior components, the other in PEXa piping for plumbing and radiant heating systems and gaskets for household appliances.
Speaking at the employee celebration, Automotive Plant Manager Dr. Venki Padmanabhan, who joined REHAU in 2020, said, “As I stand on the shoulders of the many talented and passionate plant managers who preceded me, I bear the responsibility of devoted stewardship expected of me, not only to preserve what is good among us and our business, but to also find ways to fully engage every single one of you to understand how we profit from our efforts, continuously improve and support the profitable growth of REHAU in our region.”
In October 1994, construction began on a 200,000-square-foot facility located in Industrial Park II off Highway 69 that would be equipped with injection molding and painting technology. The plant was still ramping up production of its first vehicle model when, in October 1996, the company broke ground on an expansion that would nearly double its size. While continuing to participate in the growth of automotive production in the southeastern United States, in 2003, Plant Cullman became the first REHAU plant outside of Germany to master the demanding technology for producing crosslinked polyethylene (PEXa) pipe. This lead to the January 2006 announcement of plans to build a second plant for PEXa pipe production to open in May 2007. After weathering the 2008 economic downturn, the company celebrated yet another automotive plant expansion in April 2014 as it announced plans to build a technical center. In 2016, the construction plant ventured into the appliance business with the start-up of its first gasket production line.
“It is the strength of the workforce in Cullman that has allowed us to achieve this continual growth,” said Construction Plant Manager Maic von Thuelen, who began his REHAU career near his hometown in Brake, Germany in 1993 and joined the Cullman team in 1998. “REHAU is a worldwide company that is well respected by the surrounding communities it supports – and most importantly – by its employees. When I was starting out, I was looking for an employer who would provide the training and development that would lead to a great career, and that’s what I found at REHAU.”
There are commonalities between the city of Cullman and the small Bavarian town of Rehau where, in 1948, Helmut Wagner founded the family-owned business that would ultimately become the global polymer manufacturer REHAU. Founded by a Bavarian native Colonel Johann Gottfried Cullmann, Cullman is known for its rich German heritage and its strong agricultural and industrial base. Situated along Interstate 65 between Huntsville and Birmingham (the two largest cities in the state), and with its active commitment to economic development at the local and state level, Cullman has proved to be a hospitable environment for the company. Contributing to a local qualified workforce is the support of Wallace State Community College’s machine tool technology curriculum. These community resources combined with the firm’s reputation for world-class quality and technical excellence have built REHAU into the second largest manufacturing firm and the seventh largest employer in Cullman.
Plant Cullman’s most important asset is its well-qualified and loyal employees. The Cullman team includes more than 200 employees with 10 or more years of service and a few who were part of the start-up team 25 years ago: Anthony Bailey, Bill Barksdale, Mathias Belger, Joyce Brown, Kevin Calvert, Pamela Cooper, Barry Dodson, Kindess LeeAnn Dye, Melissa Earp, Anita Fowler, Danny Harris, Chris Hauser, Gene Hicks, Pat James, Glenda Kelsoe, Alan Kinnick, Jason Lipsey, Keith Messick, Lane Pair, Phillip Pendley, Roy Pendley, Luke Reeves, Jennifer Rice, Amy Shadrick, John Simpson, Larry Sinyard, David Smith, Claudette Taylor, Timothy Tucker, Angela Tuten, Albert Twitty, Maic Von Thuelen and Ray Wise.
“Today we not only celebrate what we have achieved in Plant Cullman, but also those who have worked so tirelessly to help us achieve it. When I ask team members what they find appealing about working here, the answer I get is that they like their co-workers. If we can create the conditions for that teamwork to result in an engaged and fun environment for each of you to grow in, our work as your management team is done,” said Padmanabhan.
Through the years, Plant Cullman has received recognition from customers and REHAU’s global plant organization for:
- 2001 – Ford Q1 award
- 2002 – ISO 14001 international environment certification
- 2003 – ISO 9001 construction plant certification
- 2006 – Global Supplier award from DaimlerChrysler
- 2011 – 3 million hours without a lost time injury
- 2018 – Best New Supplier award by a major U.S. appliance manufacturer
- 2021 – Cullman Times Best of the Best – voted best industrial employer
Plant Cullman counts among it customers Daimler, Nissan, Toyota, VW, SEG who supplies Kia, GE Appliances and national plumbing distributors throughout the United States and Canada.
The construction plant is presently dealing with the unprecedented demand that has impacted the entire construction materials industry, resulting in a production capacity increase of more than 30 percent. The automotive plant is in the thick of testing more than 70 new exterior components for the 2022 rollout of the first Mercedes electric SUV in the U.S. with yet another facility expansion on the horizon. The future for Plant Cullman is promising: This translates to opportunities for current and potential employees to grow their careers and find a home in the family-owned culture of REHAU.
REHAU Americas, headquartered in Leesburg, Va. since 1979, currently oversees activities across 4 sub-region administrative offices, 20 sales offices, 9 plants and 8 logistics centers throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and South America. With 20,000 employees at more than 170 locations worldwide, the privately held manufacturer provides polymer-based systems to many of the world’s leading brands through five business divisions – Building Solutions, Window Solutions, Furniture Solutions, Industrial Solutions and Automotive.