Terry McIver
Rinnai executives gathered around the first tankless unit produced at the company's new Griffin, GA facility.

Rinnai Opens New Griffin, GA Facility

May 4, 2022
A new facility in Griffin, Georgia will produce more than 1200 RE Series tankless water heaters per day. A grand tour was provided.

GRIFFIN, GA — Rinnai America concluded one chapter and began another on April 21, with the grand opening of a new manufacturing facility in Griffin, Georgia, to be known as RAM Lakes, located about one hour due south of Atlanta. The facility will provide the total global inventory of Rinnai’s new RE Series tankless water heater for residential applications. Commercial tankless products are produced in another facility located less than one mile away.

The first RE Series unit rolled off the line at 6:15 am that morning and was later signed by all employees at the conclusion of the tour, to be placed on display. Manufacturing employees working as cross-functional teams will produce 420 units per line, per shift, for a total of 1,260 units per day.  

The facility establishes Rinnai America as the only tankless water heater company to manufacture units entirely in North America and is the full realization of a dream of Rinnai’s Japan-based ownership, to have just such a facility in North America, first expressed in 2014.

Full Day of Meeting, Touring

The day was filled with activity, as more than 100 guests from industry media and local and state governments and educators were provided with a tour of the office and manufacturing facility, followed by lunch and the signing of the first unit.

Rinnai America President Frank Windsor welcomed guests and shared some of Rinnai’s recent history leading to this day. Windsor has supported the organization’s vision for future growth by leading the development of Rinnai’s North American manufacturing strategy, the expansion of the company headquarters in Peachtree City, Georgia and the introduction of a product innovation strategy designed to expand the company’s product offerings.

“The journey to begin this manufacturing process (in North America) has been an exciting time. When I joined the organization in 2014 we were essentially a sales and marketing company that was taking a Japanese product and modifying it for the North American market,” Windsor recalled. “At the time, the president of Rinnai America was a 40-year Rinnai veteran, Takashi Sonoda, who shared with me his dream that someday Rinnai America would manufacture water heaters in the US.” (https://www.rinnai.us/announcements/rinnai-america-corporation-welcomes-takashi-sonoda-as-new-president)

Windsor continued to say Rinnai’s global organization recognized the significant potential for the North American tankless water heater market and made the decision to invest in Rinnai America as a major growth vehicle for Rinnai Corporation.

Windsor said that plan resulted in a substantial monetary investment, with the new corporate headquarters in Peachtree City, which was an $18 million investment; a $10 million investment in a new world class innovation center also in Peachtree City, along with this new Griffin manufacturing and distribution center, which was a $70 million investment. Non-condensing commercial tankless water heaters are manufactured at a facility that opened in 2018, located less than a mile from this new plant.

“In the last four years, our company has invested $100 million to show our commitment to the North American market and be in a situation for substantial growth,” Windsor said. “In 2020, amidst all the chaos that was going on with the pandemic, our company chose to invest in and break ground for this facility we are standing in today,” he said.

Windsor expressed gratitude, “for the hard work and dedication our team has put forth for this initiative, which is critical to our organization’s future growth and success.”

Windsor also thanked Georgia state and local leaders for their support during the site selection process, and to various RAM Lakes team contributors:

·      David Luckie, executive director of the Spalding County development

·      Griffiin Mayor Doug Hollberg

·      The QuickStart training organization

·      Shelley Kiley, Rinnai vice president of Griffin, Ga. operations

·      Derrick Black, Rinnai vice president, product manufacturing.

·      Hidekatsu Naruse, Rinnai America facility senior operations advisor

·       Bob Potts, plant manager

·      Jay Yu, manager, operations strategy

·      José Aponte, engineering manager

·      Chris Wilson, project Coordinator

·      All Rinnai America (RAM) team members.

“We’re proud to be part of the Griffin community, and we want to have a positive impact here,” Windsor said.

Talent Magnet

More than 400 people will be employed at the RAM Lakes plant, and there is great interest among local talent. A job fair staged early in the year attracted 450 applicants. A total of 150 manufacturing employees were hired in March, and another 270 will eventually be brought on board.

“We need many talented members to join us. Those here with friends and family, share what you saw and let them know we’d love to have them be part of our team. You will also hear plans for future expansions, more production lines and [the need for] more people,” Windsor concluded.

Location Key to NA, Global Strategy

Shelley Kiley, vice president of operations, said the rollout of the first RE Series tankless water heater was an exciting event for team members who were involved in the facility’s planning and site selection, and in the design and development of the new RE Series tankless water heater.

Kiley has cultivated deep experience throughout a 30-year career, having most recently spent three years leading a team of 650 within the supply chain and global operation strategy teams at Larson-Juhl. Prior to that, Kiley had a distinguished 11-year tenure with Ohio-based Moen, Inc. where she rapidly progressed from plant manager to holding several executive leadership roles, including vice president of global supply chain and manufacturing.

“Over the last two years, it has been challenging for the entire team who worked tirelessly through a lot of challenges: COVID, global supply chain issues, and escalation of pricing and materials for the construction. I would say the whole team is proud that they came in within four percent of budget and had only six weeks of delay on the entire project from start to finish. Everyone in this room has played an important role in bringing Rinnai’s vision and strategy of manufacturing in the local market to reality,” Kiley said. She echoed Windsor’s thanks to state and local government officials as well as Griffin Regional College and Southern Crescent Community College. 

“As Frank stated, the new manufacturing facility is very important for our continued growth in North America. We’re going to be manufacturing 100 percent of the volume of this new non-condensing water heater. It puts a lot of pressure on us. We can’t call Japan and ask for more units. We have to make them all here.

“This is also important globally,” Kiley added, “because it opens up capacity in Japan for those employees to produce other products for the North American market.”

Derrick Black, vice president of product manufacturing, came to Rinnai after 25 years in the automotive manufacturing and other industries.

“About five years ago, Frank Windsor approached me to lead this project, and I jumped at the opportunity,” Black said.  He described the plan to have three assembly lines running around the clock, and the equipment to make it happen.

“We have three stamping presses to produce many of our components, a combustion chamber and a heat exchanger assembly. We have a local supply base here in Georgia for stamping and other components. Truly, this is a North American manufacturing base,” Black said.

Many Tour Stops

During the tour, Kyle Brookins, quality manager, and Toru Gisa, quality liaison, described the function of the Rinnai quality department.

“Our responsibility is to cover the product that comes in and make sure that product is good to the time it goes out,” Brookins said. “We start with a receiving inspection of critical components, which are gas components and other critical components as well as validating parts from local suppliers. From there, we have a Quality Team for fabrication activity and assembly line.”

Tanika Peoples, senior human resource generalist, described Rinnai’s six cultural beliefs that are behind all company operations: Captivate Customer; Process First; Drive Change; Build Trust; Innovate Now; Develop You!

“These six cultural beliefs are part of the fabric of our organization, and you will see them posted around the facility. “Our strategic priority is to attract, retain and develop top talent. We will have about 400+ employees to support this facility by end of this year,” Peoples said.

Training manager Myles Threatt described the various training categories, which includes soft skills training, hands-on manufacturing, safety and ergonomics, emotional intelligence and the importance of working in cross-generational teams.

“We’re number one in our industry because we build a high-quality product,” Threatt said. “When we started this training venture, we joined forces with another ‘Number 1’ organization, QuickStart. QuickStart is part of the technical college system in Georgia and has been instrumental in designing and implementing training throughout the state for industry leaders over a long history. With their help we’ve skilled up and scaled a brand new workforce,” Threatt continued. “It required QuickStart to design a 24-hour hands-on training experience that gives our team members the basic tools skills and materials they’ll use on a daily basis. This gives them the confidence to build a high-quality product. Also, they have provided standard soft skills and lean manufacturing forces, which we use to equip our team members and prepare them to understand manufacturing in general,” as well as training in Rinnai manufacturing and cultural standards.

A detailed tour of the manufacturing floor provided an up-close look at plate fabrication, fin manufacturing, brazing, component assembly and packing. Clarence McKenzie, lead for the fin stamping team, said 18,000 copper heat exchanger fins are stamped per hour.

Terry McIver is editor-in-chief of Contracting Business.

About the Author

TERRY MCIVER | Content Director - CB

A career publishing professional, Terence 'Terry' McIver has served three diverse industry publications in varying degrees of responsibility since 1987, and has also worked in marketing communications for a major U.S. corporation.

He joined the staff of Contracting Business magazine in April 2005.

As director of content for Contracting Business, he produces daily content and feature articles for CB's 36,000 print subscribers and many more Internet visitors. He has written hundreds of news, features and contractor profile articles for CB's audience of quality HVACR contractors. He can also be found on the road, covering HVACR industry events or visiting with manufacturers or contractors. He also has significant experience in trade show planning.

Each year, Terry plays a major role in the planning and hosting of the Contracting Business "Refrigeration Roundtable," a private, idea-sharing meeting that brings together supermarket contractors and refrigeration contractors.

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