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Industrial spotlight: Accuride shines in the wheel business
Accuride - Rodney Baskins
Accuride employee Rodney Baskins uses a robotic arm to feed a wheel into an automated machine that drills the holes in a molded aluminum wheel. - photo by Gary Phillips

A Camden manufacturing plant is making high-end aluminum wheels for large trucks and trailers. Accuride Director of Operations Peter Wong said the company supplies the wheels directly to truck makers and other buyers.

“Our principal customers are Daimler, Volvo and Mack and some aftermarket customers as well,” Wong said. “We’re mostly in North America right now. Accuride does have a footprint in Mexico and London, Ontario (Canada).”

Wong said Accuride bought the Camden facility in 2011, previously called Forgitron.

“It was doing the same principal product, with different designs,” he said.

The plant employs 57 workers at the 79,000-square-foot facility on 20 acres at 30 Hengst Blvd. in Steeplechase Industrial Park south of Camden. Wong said employee skills cover a wide range, from operating computer controlled robotic machines to maintenance to forklift operation. He said workers are recruited through the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, through temporary agencies and newspaper advertisements.

“We take folks from all different kinds of manufacturing backgrounds,” Wong said.

Wong said Accuride has shifts from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., depending on the job being done and the workload.

“We have two principal processes going on. We’ve got a forging and heat-treating operation and a machining and polishing operation,” he said.

The wheel-making process begins with aluminum barstock that is heated to just below the melting point, making it possible to shape into a wheel. The hot metal is forced into a mold, then heat-treated to make it harder. The forged wheels are then machined to make holes for a truck or trailer’s lug studs, then polished to a mirror-like finish.

Wong said the company is also involved in the community. He said it is a Kershaw County Relay for Life sponsor, member of the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce, participated in Read Across America at area elementary schools on Friday, gives to United Way, is on the National Safety Council, and supports the Camden Fire Department and Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office.

He said the facility can be expanded if and when demand for its product increases.

“There is room for growth as the industry picks up,” he said.