West Virginia’s Procter & Gamble manufacturing facility is already up to 1,400 workers and still looking for more.
“We’re still looking to hire another hundred to 200 people to really help finish that startup for us and keep us ready for the long haul,” said Steve O’Brien, plant human resource manager for the P&G facility at Inwood, Berkeley County.
But even with continued high state and national unemployment rates resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, the P&G plant has found it challenging to fill those positions.
“Since covid, we’ve had some challenges with applications and you see a lot of job opportunities in the area as well,” O’Brien said. “We just want to make sure people understand, yep, we are still going.”
O’Brien spoke Wednesday during an overview presentation for regional media — an event that included masks, social distancing and a tour of the shiny new plant. Some corridors of the plant were an olfactory wave of dryer sheet smell.
Almost exactly two years ago, a similar tour of the plant was very different, occurring mostly through a slide presentation in a trailer and then a site visit on a dirt knoll while construction crews put up Building 100, the first to open and produce Bounce.
There were about 265 full time employees working at Procter & Gamble at that point in 2017. Workers blasted or moved 6.5 million cubic yards of earth.
“We feel incredibly proud of the progress,” said Luca Schianchi, beauty care plant manager. “When we look back we feel like, wow, it has been an amazing journey.”
Ground was broken at the plant in the fall of 2015. P&G is located on 468 acres of what is flat land by West Virginia standards.
Fifty-three acres are under roof. Most production lines are in place, starting up or in full production.
Bounce started up in 2018 with hair conditioner production starting later that year.
Then shampoo and body wash began in 2019 with dish and Swiffer products also starting up that year.
“Even as we look to the last year, we quadrupled our production from the year before,” O’Brien said, “so we really are starting to be one of the biggest manufacturing sites for Procter & Gamble in the world, let alone in North America.”
The plant operates 24-7, with most workers on 12-hour shifts — on a couple of days and then off a couple of days. Teams tend to be self-managed.
“We have people who have a high level of ownership. They want to lead their own piece of the business and really are ultimately what makes everything work for us. Having that high level of capability in our folks really enables us to do some great things here,” O’Brien said.
Much of the work at Tabler Station is automated, with machines stacking pallets of dryer sheets or automatic guided vehicles rumbling down aisles at the plant. But the expertise of human workers is needed to make sure the machines run properly.
“People are still part of that equation, and it’s really having strong, capable people who can really understand and work with that technology and really enjoy the challenge as well, is what keeps the place running and productive,” O’Brien said.
Richard Rivera, an analytical lab leader, said the company is looking for more workers with science degrees or science aptitude that could be honed on the job.
“We are actively looking to get more staffing in place,” Rivera said.
With much of the groundwork set for the production of dryer sheets, Swiffer cleaning products and more, O’Brien said the facility aims for more community involvement.
O’Brien and others said the company expects a lot of the communities where it invests and expects a lot of itself too.
“We want to be here for the long haul,” he said.