SISSONVILLE, W.Va. — It’s been 20 years since NGK Spark Plugs opened its doors for the first time in West Virginia.
On Wednesday, over 500 NGK employees along with U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) gathered at the Sissonville facility to celebrate the company’s accomplishments since 1995.
A few dozen associates have been working for NGK, a manufacturing company based out of Nagoya, Japan, since the beginning. That includes Technical Maintenance Manager Shawn McKinney.
“It’s been a ride,” said McKinney, who is a 20-year associate. “I’ve seen all the expansions, all the buildings and all the construction. I’ve visited Japan back in 1999. I’ve been to California. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”
McKinney first took the job at NGK back in 1995 by working in promotions. He was then was promoted to his manager role three years ago.
In 2008, McKinney said the company suffered with their production, but still continued to work their way back up with the workers they had.
“We were donating our work force out to local schools. We were calling the local hospitals asking if they needed any volunteer work. No one was laid off and that opened my eyes to what kind of company I was working for at that point,” the reason McKinney told MetroNews for staying as long as he has at NGK.
NGK Manufacturing Director Kim Carmean said when he was hired in 2008, they made around 30,000 oxygen sensors per day. Fast forward seven years later and, as of this week, he said they’re making over double that amount at nearly 66,000 per day, equating to 1.3 million per month.
“They’re doing around 40 million spark plugs a year, annually, so this plan has grown in leaps and bounds in the last 20 years,” said Carmean.
Carmean said they already have plans in place to maintain and build upon their successes by offering more training sessions and keeping an eye on KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) to make sure they respond to abnormal conditions.
Additional business and expansions for NGK is already being worked on, according to Carmean.
“In February, there will be an entirely new line brought in,” he said. “We still have growing to do just within the next 12 months.”
At Wednesday’s celebration, NGK Japan CEO and President Shinichi Odo spoke to the associates and congratulated West Virginia’s successes.
“If Japan didn’t have that faith in us, we wouldn’t have grown as we’ve grown,” said Carmean. “Again, we tie that into the associates and their maturity of understanding the process.”
NGK Spark Plugs manufactures and sells spark plugs and related products for internal combustion engines, along with ceramics and applicable products. NGK W.Va., alone, has shipped over 100 million pieces of product in the last year.