The acting general manager of Georgia Transformer, the manufacturing plant north of Rincon on Ga. 21 formerly known as EFACEC, said he knew the facility had issues but was surprised at how many problems he found.
Prabhat Jain said Thursday the plant that makes large electrical transformers lost $30 million last year, and he expects it to lose $10 million this year.
The new owners have changed the name of the plant to Georgia Transformer and are training employees and trying to lure back customers. They are planning a “grand re-opening” ceremony Sept. 26. The plant specializes in making energy-efficient transformers, competing with those made in Korea, China and Japan.
Jain also is president of Virginia Transformer Corp., which has a strategic alliance with the new owners of the plant — Caravels LLC, a private investment company owned by his daughters.
Caravels bought the facility late last year.
“Three or four months later we realized the plant had more issues than what we knew about,” Jain said. “It's an excellent group of people who want to work and do a good job, but they didn't have good leadership or training.”
Jain said the new owners are emphasizing training, increased efficiency and the importance of reliability and quality. He said none of the 200-plus employees have been laid off since the ownership change. He said the plant had as many as 385 workers at one time as EFACEC under its Portuguese former owners.
He expects the plant to add 150 to 200 jobs over three years, starting in the second half of next year.
Average pay for production workers at the plant is $19 an hour, not including benefits, according to controller Steven Bahlmann.
Bahlmann said the plant is running three shifts and paying a lot of overtime.
“We do have a lot of work but not as much as we want,” said Balhmann, who served as chief financial officer of Moon River Studios for two months before joining Georgia Transformer.
Jain said the large electrical transformers the plant makes are unique and cost from $1 million to $3 million.
Since the lead time from when an order is placed to when a transformer is delivered is 30 weeks, it took a while for customers to figure out they weren't getting a top-quality product from EFACEC, Jain said.
He said he expects the problems to result in a lull in work the first and second quarters of next year “while we are waiting for customers or wooing them to come back.”
The company is trying to bring back business from large utility companies and add business from renewable energy such as solar and wind.
The plant built 34 transformers in 2014 and already has built that many in 2015, Bahlmann said. Jain said he expects the plant to build as many transformers next year as it does this year but not enough to make a profit.
He expects the plant to turn a profit in 2017.
The transformers go to customers all over the world, via train, tractor-trailer or barge on the Savannah River, which is four miles away.