A global leader in electrical specialties and advanced materials for high-tech industries, Mersen has earned a strong reputation for its exceptional technical expertise and commitment to product quality. With a long history of activity in the United States, today it operates ten facilities in the country, across two segments: Electrical Power, and Advanced Materials. For the latter, its latest addition is a Columbia-based center of excellence for graphite specialties, acquired in 2019. This location serves the demand from high-growth markets such as solar power and electronics.
Concentrating on the Electrical Power segment, the Mersen facility in Rochester, New York, is a vertically integrated center specializing in bus bar solutions and industrial cooling units for the American market. The company has experienced a period of significant growth, driven by adoption of smart manufacturing principles, which are disrupting traditional practices and fostering innovation. With a focus on custom-built products, Mersen leverages in-house capabilities for metal stamping, laser cutting, forming, and coating. Additionally, the company is actively replacing and upgrading its lamination technology to maintain cutting-edge performance. Christina Pierce, Rochester Site Director, tells us more about Mersen’s Rochester facility and the company’s foundation.
“The site in Rochester was established in 1950 as a bus bar manufacturer and was later acquired by Mersen in 2012. Over the years, we have experienced tremendous growth, and currently, our facility spans approximately 110,000 square feet. With a primary focus on laminated and powder-coated bus bars, our manufacturing operations in Rochester are of paramount importance. While we also engage in industrial electrical cooling, it represents a smaller portion of our business. Throughout its history, the Rochester site has undergone three or four expansions, showcasing our commitment to continuous improvement, and meeting growing demands. These improvements have allowed us to bring most of our operations in-house, streamlining our processes and enhancing our vertical integration approach. From the initial stages of working with copper or aluminum sheets to the stamping, forming, powder coating, lamination, assembly, and high potential electrical testing of bus bars, we have developed a comprehensive range of capabilities. Furthermore,” she notes, “we go beyond manufacturing by offering extensive engineering services to support our customers in designing and optimizing their own, unique solutions. Every aspect of our operations is fully customized to meet the specific requirements of each customer, reflecting our role as a low-volume, high-mix provider.”
Christina reveals the secret behind Mersen’s continued success. “The rise in popularity and demand for electric vehicles (EVs) has played a crucial role in fueling Mersen’s substantial growth. As a key player in this domain, as well as in solar and wind technologies, energy storage, and power electronics, we are at the forefront of these rapidly expanding industries. Mersen’s extensive contributions to power management solutions are complemented by its Advanced Materials segment, forming a comprehensive network intertwined with the dynamic fields of sustainable energy and related sectors. Concerning the growth of our Rochester site, it can be attributed to our workforce’s expertise. We have a highly skilled engineering team that excels in working collaboratively with customers, assisting them in designing bus bars tailored to their specific requirements. Our technical capabilities, coupled with our commitment to quality, truly set us apart. It is worth noting that we hold ISO and AS9100 certifications, which further enhance our credibility and attract customers to our services,” she adds.
In the face of global skills shortages and the imperative to engage young individuals in the industry, Mersen is dedicated to tackling the pressing challenges posed by an aging population within the manufacturing sector. “Some of our toolmakers are now approaching retirement and engaging young talent in manufacturing and trades is a struggle not only in the US but also globally. I believe introducing manufacturing and trades as viable career choices at an early stage is crucial. For a long time, the emphasis was solely on pursuing a college education, but we are witnessing a shift in perspective. We are moving towards a better direction, highlighting that there are alternative paths besides college, and trades can offer fulfilling careers with excellent job prospects and competitive salaries. In Rochester, and likely across the country, companies are teaming up with industry organizations to promote interest in apprenticeship programs. For instance, we are currently partnering with the Rochester Technology and Manufacturers Association (RTMA) to provide advanced manufacturing training to two young operators. The RTMA is actively involved in youth apprenticeship programs. It collaborates with high schools and works closely with younger students, introducing them to the opportunities available in the world of manufacturing and trades,” Christina enlightens.
Women in manufacturing
In an industry struggling with workforce shortages and a prevailing male-dominated culture, Christina’s journey stands as an inspiring example. Encouraged by her father, she embarked on a path in engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology, a decision that has proven successful given her current position within Mersen. “As a math professor at RIT, my dad taught young engineers. He soon saw in me the ability and aptitude to go into engineering and encouraged me to do so early on. This was before the implementation of initiatives to encourage more women to pursue STEM fields. Thus, engineering wasn’t introduced to me in high school, and when I did enter college, I was one of only a few women in my classes. However, I do think it has changed a lot since then. Now, close to half of the engineering students are women, which I believe is a great step in the right direction. I am very hopeful about the future of women in manufacturing. Organizations like Women in Manufacturing, which I am part of, promote apprenticeship programs and offer educational programs to women. Moreover, RTMA is going to have its yearly summit in November, which will focus on women in manufacturing. So, there is a lot happening within these industry organizations to drive interest in manufacturing for women,” she ends.
Through continual investment in advanced technologies, a highly skilled workforce, and initiatives to develop the next generation of talent, Mersen’s Rochester site is well-positioned for further growth.