Saab Marks Opening of West Lafayette Manufacturing Facility

Sweden-based Saab has cut the ribbon on its $37 million research and manufacturing facility at Purdue University’s Discovery Park District. The company plans to add up to 300 jobs over the next few years at the 100,000-square-foot facility, which will produce the aft section of the T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer aircraft for the U.S. Air Force. Robert Ulibarri, general manager and vice president of Saab’s aerospace systems group, says the facility currently has about 60 employees and more are being added.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Ulibarri said the opportunity for collaboration with Purdue is very exciting.

“We are literally across the street from Zucrow Laboratories, which is a part of Purdue University in the Aerospace District, which means that we have great access to professors, students who can help advance our research and development initiative, and then we have a great alumni base that has excelled in aerospace and engineering that we can recruit and attract to our site,” said Ulibarri.

Ulibarri says the overall ecosystem with other manufacturers is perfect for Saab’s “triple helix model” of having support from the state, Purdue, and access to a community of future employees.

In addition to work on the aircraft, Saab says the facility will support research and development in autonomy, artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing. Ulibarri says the company is currently in hiring mode as it looks to fill positions such as assemblers, engineers, and system administrators, among others.

“About 30%-40% of our professional work staff are Purdue alums and inside of our factory, the team that’s going to be building the aft sections, almost 50% of them are veterans,” he said. “What we’re finding is we’re attracting people who are looking for a career and are looking for growth and want to participate in the synergies that are developing with Purdue and the community.”

Ulibarri says a portion of the employee base has been in Sweden cross-training with workers there to build the aft sections. He says the next step is to transfer the technology from Sweden to the U.S., while engineers are currently working in West Lafayette to prepare the facility to begin production.

“The rest of this year and into next year, we’re installing capital equipment and we’re starting our manufacturing processes,” he said. “We anticipate to deliver our first unit; it’ll take us a year to build our first aft and then we’ll slowly ramp up and we have the capacity of producing two per week.”

Saab says the facility was completed on time and on budget.

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