Though riders won’t see them for a few more months, the first of Amtrak's incoming 70 high-tech trains, built by Siemens, rolled off the assembly line and is ready to begin testing.
“Our project goal was to make the supply chain as American as possible,” says Siemens Rail Systems president Michael Cahill of the $466 million initiative.
Siemens is building parts in Norwood, Ohio, Alpharetta, Georgia and Richland, Mississippi, and assembling the trains at its Sacramento, California plant. Additionally, the manufacturer says it is using 69 suppliers – a majority of them American companies -- in more than 60 U.S. cities and 23 states.
One of those suppliers is Bentech, a Philadelphia-based manufacturer with approximately 80 employees.
Robert Benninghoff, one of Bentech’s owners, says the company is providing Siemens with the grab bars located on the outside of the trains for conductors and journeymen to get in and out of the vehicles. In addition to its headquarters in Philadelphia, Bentech has a foundry in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
“Siemens is one of the biggest customers we have, as well as Bombardier and Kawasaki,” says Benninghoff. He also says that about 80% of the subway cars in New York City have Bentech handrails.
Benninghoff hasn’t seen the finished train yet, but says he is looking forward to the sighting when the trains go into service along the Northeast Corridor.
“Our people get a kick out of it here!” he says.
Small Business Praises Siemens
National Fire Systems and its subsidiary Sacramento Fire Extinguisher Co. is another small business supplier to Siemens. The business is family-run and operated, with 12 employees.
“For Siemens, we are supplying portable fire extinguishers for the cars – it’s a special type of halon fire extinguisher,” says NFS President Tom Robinson.
He says that Siemens has been “fantastic” to work with.
“It’s really great – we’ve had engineers come down here from Siemens to make sure everything fits properly. One of the brackets was 3 millimeters off and they said they couldn’t use it – they’re so precise in their stuff!” says Robinson.
Siemens Commits to American Companies for Amtrak Trains
Cahill says partnering with American suppliers has numerous benefits for the multinational Siemens.
“One good reason is the lifespan of the locomotives. There’s a 20-year life at the minimum, and in that time, suppliers need to be active and dedicated, when things need to be replaced or overhauled,” says Cahill.
Another motive for employing domestic suppliers, he says, is it helps Siemens avoid exchange rate fluctuations that affect the price of importing goods from foreign countries.
Cahill says the government has created made-in-the-USA buying guidelines for companies in order to support the rolling stock industry. For the deal with Amtrak, Siemens was required to use at least 50% American products, but Cahill says the company has gone above and beyond that threshold.